MANILA - The country’s task force leading law enforcement efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic said Monday it would strictly implement health protocols in shopping centers and markets during the yuletide season to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Police Lt. Gen. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, commander of Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said they were deploying more police officers in public places and other areas of convergence to ensure Filipinos were wearing face masks and observing physical distancing.
"Magpapasko na nga, so itong mga places of convergence... dito, nagdoble kami ng aming mga tao. Ipinag-utos natin na ang kanilang visibility, doblehin," he told TeleRadyo's "On The Spot".
(With Christmas nearing, we have doubled the number of our personnel in these places of convergence.)
As the country gradually opened its economy and allowed more businesses to resume, the police official admitted that implementing health protocols remained a challenge.
Binag, also deputy chief for operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP), urged the public to cut down on unnecessary activities as the COVID-19 remains a threat.
For those looking to get out of town for the holidays, he said the public must be sensible in making such decision.
"Pag-isipan ang galaw natin kung makaka-contribute ba tayo sa pag-solve nito o makakadagdag pa tayo sa problema ng ating bansa," Binag said.
(Let us be mindful if going out would contribute in helping solve the problem or worsen it.)
The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it would implement a department circular to remind Filipinos to continue observing minimum public health standards during the holiday season.
Under the circular, holiday activities such as caroling, shopping in crowded markets, indoor gathering of large crowds, riding in stuffed public transportation vehicles and others that involve physical contact are discouraged.
Mayors of Metro Manila will also ban the traditional Christmas caroling this holiday season while Christmas parties in public offices will be suspended.
Binag said in a recent interview that around 500,000 individuals have either been warned, fined or arrested already by authorities for violating health protocols implemented since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The Philippines has so far tallied 429,864 coronavirus infections, with 8,373 fatalities. The latest DOH bulletin said 22,867 individuals are still sick with the virus.