Gov’t urges vigilance against coronavirus

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People who contracted the coronavirus from reckless behavior should be excluded from health insurance coverage, while shopping malls that fail to enforce health protocols would face closure.

These are among the reactions of government officials to the sight of some shoppers not observing physical distancing in shopping malls after quarantine rules were relaxed in Metro Manila and other areas starting May 16.

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Robinsons Malls, in its statement on Sunday, said it “would like to correct the fake news circulating on social media showing a crowd of people.”

“Said photo is an old photo when one of our provincial malls was made the venue for distribution of financial assistance by the LGU (local government unit),” the company said. “The mall was not open at that time.”

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“In all the Robinsons Malls that reopened yesterday, customers and shoppers were all very disciplined in practicing social distancing,” Robinsons said. “Let’s stop the spread of fake news!”

“Robinsons Malls will continue to strictly enforce social distancing and other safety protocols in all our malls.”

‘Reckless behavior’

A party-list lawmaker on Sunday called on Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to exclude from coverage people who contracted COVID-19 from “irresponsible and reckless behavior.”

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Rep. Jericho Nograles said the state health insurer should not waste the contributions of its members to help “people who deliberately endanger themselves and their community.”

As for shopping malls, these should be closed by the local government or the Philippine National Police if they do not strictly implement physical distancing or limit the entry of people, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

“If the malls are not able to comply with the minimum health standards, the PNP can close the malls and charge the mall owners with violation of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Año has tasked all police chiefs and police community precinct commanders with making the rounds through all the shopping malls before and during operating hours.

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Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque reminded the public “not to put to waste our collective efforts and sacrifices” of the two-month lockdown that millions of Filipinos endured.

“The Palace therefore asks for the cooperation of the public as the whole country remains in quarantine,’’ Roque said in a statement. “Stay at home, go out to do essential work or when authorized as we ramp up testing.”

Vigilance

He went on: “We must continue to be vigilant of the risks of COVID-19, conduct proper hygiene, wear face mask or face shield, and observe social or physical distancing.”

Metro Manila, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales, Angeles City and Laguna remained under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), while Cebu City and Mandaue City remained under ECQ.

Other parts of the country began its slow transition into general community quarantine (GCQ).

The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday reported 208 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 12,513 the total number of infections nationwide.

Among the new cases, 174 were from Metro Manila, while 34 were from other areas of the country.

The death toll climbed to 824 after seven more patients succumbed to the respiratory illness.

Second wave

Senators also expressed alarm over the number of people trooping to public and commercial areas after the government started to ease President Duterte’s lockdown order in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, Senate health committee chair, appealed to the public to strictly observe physical distancing and to always wear protective gear to avoid spreading the disease and being infected with the highly contagious virus.

“Government resources are already exhausted … If the number of (COVID-19) patients would continue to increase, our health-care system will collapse,” he said. “Remember that there’s no vaccine yet for COVID-19.”

Sen. Francis Tolentino said MECQ might adversely affect the government’s capacity to carry out mass testing, which Malacañang had admitted was still far from the desired number of daily tests.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) should “reconsider” its decision to allow the opening of shopping malls and other private establishments.

“We haven’t gone past the first wave [of infections] yet. So I’m not sure about [what could happen during] a second wave,” Lacson said.

Curve not flattened

Contrary to what some government officials were claiming, Lacson reiterated that the country had yet to flatten the curve of the new coronavirus infections.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the government must be careful in acceding to the request of the private sector to reopen the economy, pointing out that the public health facilities would not be enough to deal with another surge in coronavirus infections. —WITH REPORTS FROM DJ YAP, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND JULIE M. AURELIO INQ

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