#MayCOVIDpa: Strict observance of COVID-19 rules stressed amid crowding in NCR sites

October 18, 2021 - 1:51 PM
Dolomite Beach weekend
Crowds gather as they wait for the famous Manila Bay sunset at the Manila Dolomite Beach during its second day being open on Oct. 17, 2021. (The STAR/Miguel de Guzman)

(Updated 7:35 p.m.) Calls to strictly observe and be mindful of the minimum public health and safety protocols for COVID-19 were stressed on social media as photos of crowding in the metro circulated over the weekend.

The Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach opened to the public last Saturday as the National Capital Region downgraded to Alert Level 3 of general community quarantine.

News outlets reported pictures and clips of the area which featured throngs of people visiting the site on Sunday.

COVIDMan,” a Filipino donning a COVID-themed costume who goes to places and reminds people of health protocols, went in the area as well.

According to him, a cop eventually arrived on the scene and suddenly enforced a 15-minute visitation limit due to the number of people.

He claimed that there was no signage in the area indicating such a rule.

The Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach is the first phase of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Manila Bay beach nourishment project.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that people may stay in the area as long as they want but only 300 individuals are allowed during the visiting hours from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

He added that it is also open to those who are not yet fully vaccinated but everyone needs to wear the requisite face mask. The wearing of face shields is optional since it is an outdoor area.

Cimatu also said that bathing in the Manila Bay waters is prohibited since the level of fecal coliform has not yet gone down to 100 most probable number per 100 milliliters, which is the standard level acceptable for swimming.

Amid the reported crowding, the environment chief said that they are “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the public.” He, however, maintained that health protocols were observed in the area through the help of DENR personnel and security marshals.

Those who saw the photos online expressed concerns citing that there is still a prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, especially the presence of the highly contagious Delta Variant.

“‘Pag Alert Level 3, hindi po ibig sabihin na back to normal na. May COVID pa rin po ha,” ABS-CBN’s data analytics head Edson Guido tweeted.

“May Covid pa po. Kayo din, baka mag lockdown ulit.
#MayCovidPa,” Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen wrote.

“Omg! After weeks, tataas na naman COVID cases then maglo-lockdown na naman. Paulit-ulit na lang,” another Filipino online user likewise said in response to the photos of crowd.

“‘Di ba applicable ang social distancing sa (Alert) Level 3?” another Twitter user commented.

Alleged pictures of crowds in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City were also uploaded by some online users over the weekend who similarly aired concerns on the observance of COVID-19 rules.

Other online users pointed out that Filipinos have been under lockdown for nearly two years now.

“Guys we’ve been locked up at home for almost TWO years. Ok? Other countries around the world are shifting back to normal life. Let’s please not judge people who want to go out, but encourage them to ALWAYS practice safety measures. We can’t have another year of this,” a Twitter user said.

Alert Level 3 has been in place in Metro Manila last October 16. NCR would be placed under this quarantine classification until October 31.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said that this is imposed when “case counts are high and/or increasing, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at increasing utilization.”

Alert Level 3 allows individual outdoor exercises for all ages, regardless of their comorbidities or COVID-19 vaccination status.

Venues of social events, if outdoors, are only allowed a maximum of 50% venue capacity and provided its workers are all fully vaccinated. These include venues for family reunions.

“All other establishments, or activities in areas not covered by granular lockdowns and which are not otherwise specified in Section 4(4), may be allowed to operate or be undertaken at 100% on-site or venue/seating capacity, as the case may be,
provided they implement minimum public health standards,” IATF-EID said on its guidelines.

The Department of Health on Monday said that cases in NCR could further decline by November based on the projections that were provided to them.

Despite this, infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante cautioned the public against complacency as the ICU utilization still rate remains high at 75%.

As of October 15, Metro Manila is still among the top regions in the country in terms of recording active and new COVID-19 cases.

The DOH requires everyone to stay at least one-meter away from each other for precautionary measures against the virus. It is nearly equivalent to a length of a motorcycle.

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Protection said that people should observe “at least 6 feet” or “about an arm’s length” distance from each other.

“Social distancing, also called ‘physical distancing,’ means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household,” its website said.

“Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you—or they—do not have any symptoms,” it said.

COVID-19 is transmitted through aerosols and respiratory droplets that are emitted through talking, shouting, singing, coughing and sneezing.

Apart from wearing face masks, strictly practicing physical distancing measures are among the ways to mitigating the spread of the virus which has a high transmission rate.