DOH: Large community pantries are potential COVID ‘superspreaders’

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2021 11:21 PM

The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday advised organizers to be careful setting up community pantries, especially after throngs of people mobbed the one set up by actress and philanthropist Angel Locsin in Quezon City.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said pantry organizers must coordinate with the local government to ensure that health protocols are followed in a such setup.

"Kailangang maintidihan ng ating mga kababayan na nasa MECQ status pa rin tayo, so 'yung mga ganitong activities kailangang coordinated para hindi maka-cause ng risk sa mga kababayan po natin," said Vergeire in an interview on Teleradyo.

(The public must understand that we're still under modified enhanced community quarantine, so these activities must be coordinated with local government so they don't become a health risk.)

The actress and her staff did coordinate with Barangay Holy Spirit officials to enforce the health protocols. 

But the situation went out of control due to the number of people there. A balut vendor identified as Rolando Dela Cruz even died due to exhaustion.

"Kapag nagkukumpol-kumpulan ang mga tao at di natin nakikita na may physical distance among themselves at maraming nagsasalita kahit po tayo ay nasa open space maaari rin po 'yang maging superspreader event," said Vergiere.

"Kaya ang ginawa nating advice ay makipag-coordinate tayo sa local government para maisaayos po natin."

(If that many people gather together and many of them are talking and they do not observe physical distancing, even if they're in an open space, that's a recipe for a superspreader event. Our advice is to coordinate with local government to make sure queues are orderly.)

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, meanwhile, agreed with Vergerie's suggestion for organizers' responsibility to coordinate with LGUs.

"Community pantry kasi yan. Kailangan kasama ang barangay, ang LGU para tulungan ang lahat. Hindi lang ang organizer ang kailangang tumulong, kailangan lahat," he said. 

"At the end of the day kailangan 'yung mga organizer must be responsible . . . Nasa kanila ang responsibility to coordinate with the PNP and 'yung PNP and the barangay must respond immediately to any request by the organizers."

(A community pantry is a collective effort that doesn't involve just the organizer, but also with the help of the barangay and the LGU. The organizer must be responsible coordinating with the police.)

Malaya said his department will hold a meeting with LGU officials on Saturday to present a set of guidelines needed to be followed when organizing community pantries.

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