The Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF) has signalled a go-ahead to the City government’s recommendation to place five barangays around the city under localized lockdown starting April 16 until April 30, as a measure to contain an ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases.

To be covered by an ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) local lockdowns are Barangays San Pedro, San Miguel, San Manuel, Sta. Monica, and San Jose will be classified as a “critical containment zone” where movements of residents will be limited.

The RIATF approval of the City government’s earlier recommendation was conveyed in a letter of Regional IATF chair Wilhelm Suyco to Mayor Lucilo Bayron dated April 15, 2021, a copy of which was obtained by Palawan News from an official source.

“Please be informed that the RITF concurred with the decision to impose lockdown… beginning 16 April to 30 April 2021 due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the city,” the letter stated.

City administrator Arnel Pedrosa said he is yet to validate the letter which was obtained by Palawan News from an official source. Other top local officials were also unable to validate the document and declined to issue any statement when asked for the guidelines on how the ECQ lockdown will be implemented.

Health authorities earlier said the five barangays have seen a high number of antigen-positive patients.

“It is actually the same as enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Ire-restrict muna ang movements ng mga tao and sa mga tagalabas na barangay, hindi muna puwedeng pumasok sa containment zone unless absolutely necessary,” City administrator Arnel Pedrosa said  in an earlier interview explaining the City’s recommendation to the RIATF.

Pedrosa added checkpoints at all points of entry to the critical zone will be manned by law enforcement authorities. However, inside the zone, offices and businesses can still resume normal operations or reduce their workforce to 50% if they can.

Food establishments in the zone, however, may no longer be allowed to offer dine-in services. Instead, they may provide delivery services. Malls and large commercial centers will still be allowed to operate, but their food concessionaires are required to temporarily cease operations.

“Sa mga malls bukas pa naman dapat ang groceries at ang mga pharmacies. ‘Yon lang, sa mga restaurants, bawal na muna talaga ang dine-in,” he said.

Meanwhile, barangays outside the critical zone will be classified as a buffer zone. Residents living in the critical zone who work in the buffer zone may still report for work. Those living outside the zone, however, who need to do official business in the critical zone, may still do so, according to Pedrosa.

“Basta huwag silang mag-stay sa loob nang matagal, ok lang. Halimbawa, kapag kailangang pumunta sa bangko, o sa ibang offices, puwede naman. At ‘yong mga nagta-trabaho sa critical zone naman pero nakatira sa labas, puwede rin naman ‘yon,” he said.

As of Wednesday, April 14, the City Information Office (CIO) reported 33 active cases and eight deaths. However, there are more than 160 antigen-positive patients who are yet to verified due to a shortage of RT-PCR cartridges in the city’s primary COVID-19 facility.

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