MANILA - The public is urged to only visit community pantries near them, an infectious disease expert said Sunday after the health department warned that large gatherings may turn into a COVID-19 superspreader event.
The elderly and those who are sick are particularly advised against visiting community pantries, according to Dr. Eric Tayag.
"Bagama't maganda ang hangarin ng community pantry ay maaaring maging isang dahilan 'to na dumami na naman yung mga kaso natin," Tayag told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(While the intention of community pantries is good, it may still cause a rise in our cases.)
"Dun sa kumukuha, sana malinaw po sa inyo na maaari tayong manghawa at maaari tayong mahawa. Itanong kung dapat ba 'kong pumunta, ano ang dapat gawin at paano ako makakatulong," he added.
(To those who get goods, I hope it's clear with you that you can infect other people and you can be infected. Ask yourself if you must go, what you should do, and how you should help.)
"'Yung matatanda, baka may bilinan na lang sana. 'Yung may karamdaman, 'wag na pong sumadya d'yan."
(Maybe, the elderly can ask someone else to go. Those with an illness are advised against visiting community pantries.)
Community pantry organizers are advised to limit the number of people within a period of time, Tayag said.
"Hindi lang yung layo, pati yung dami. At least 3 or 6 feet, eh kung 1,000 (katao) naman yun, hindi rin naman maganda yun," he said.
(We should not only watch the distance between people but their numbers. Even if you observe 3 to 6 feet physical distancing, if there's 1,000 people, it would be no good.)
"Sana, 'yung community pantry, 'wag na kayong dumadayo. Halimbawa, sa Quezon City, 'yan, eh ba't naman kayong taga-Paranaque ay pupunta po ro'n? 'Yan pong community pantry, mainam po 'yan dun sa kaniya-kaniyang barangay. So, ang magtutulungan, 'yung mga sa barangay na 'yun. So, 'wag kayong dadayo po," Tayag said.
"Kung gusto n'yong magka-community pantry, eh dun sa barangay n'yo, para nang sa ganun, kilala n'yo kung sino nagbibigay, at kilala n'yo rin kung sino ang kumukuha," he added.
Those who experience COVID-19 symptoms or suspect that they were infected are urged to get tested, Tayag said.
The Department of Health 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.
The situation went out of control due to the number of people there. A balut vendor identified as Rolando Dela Cruz died due to exhaustion.
The actress and her staff did coordinate with Barangay Holy Spirit officials to enforce the health protocols.
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.
"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.)
The Philippines on Saturday logged 9,661 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 989,380, with 89,485 active infections.
The DOH earlier in the day noted a slight decline in new coronavirus infections in the past week, after stricter lockdowns were reintroduced in Metro Manila and its nearby provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna, and Cavite.
Hospitals around the metro earlier said they still felt overwhelmed with the number of COVID-19 cases even as government has expanded bed capacity.