Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has ordered the Joint Task Force (JTF) COVID Shield to be stricter in enforcing health protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) amid the anticipated influx of shoppers in commercial areas this holiday season.

Año disclosed that police focal persons will be tapped in every barangay to monitor the observance of quarantine measures.

“Lalo ngayong Pasko ano, kailangan natin na mas maraming magbabantay (Especially this Christmas, we need more men to be on guard (against minimum health standard violators),’’ he said in a radio interview on Sunday.

Año also warned that malls with rampant quarantine violations will be closed down as the country continues its uphill battle against COVID-19.

He revealed that the Philippine National Police (PNP), Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and other concerned groups have held dialogues with mall operators regarding the strict enforcement of the minimum health standards inside their establishments.

As huge crowds are expected during the approaching yuletide season, mall owners are constantly briefed on the urgency of enforcing quarantine protocols inside their premises.

Año emphasized that donning face shields is a must indoors aside from face masks.

He acknowledged that the public, bloggers and other social media users, and the members of the press can help boost the country’s fight against Covid-19 by reporting to proper authorities malls that have rampant violations of the minimum health standards.

In the case of Divisoria in Manila, Año said it remains a huge challenge for authorities to enforce the minimum health protocols as mammoth crowds are starting to flock to the area.

He observed that shoppers, after months of being under restricted movement due to the pandemic, are very eager to do their Christmas shopping.

Año said he has asked local government units and the PNP to deploy additional enforcers in convergence areas like “tiangge” (flea market), wet markets, malls, and the like to implement the health and safety standards against Covid-19.

The DILG chief expressed fear that easing quarantine protocols this holiday season will result in a spike of Covid-19 cases.

He cited the case in Europe where there is a reported second wave of infections far worse than the initial one.

“Sa Britain halimbawa, magla-lock down sila aabot hanggang Marso next year yung lockdown nila kasi umaabot sila ng matataas (In Britain for instance they will have a lockdown up to March next year because they reached a high number of Covid-19 cases),” Año said.

He said that last week, Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19, confirmed that Metro Manila mayors have agreed for the region to remain under the general community quarantine until the end of December, which will be recommended to the President on November 30. (PNA)



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