By Gillian M. Cortez, Reporter
The government on Friday backtracked on its decision to allow religious and work-related gatherings under a relaxed lockdown in some areas of the country, after some lawmakers and local officials objected to it.
An inter-agency task force discussed the policy and decided to keep the ban on all public gatherings, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said at a news briefing.
Some lawmakers and local officials earlier said religious and work meetings could spread the novel coronavirus.
The Department of Health reported 284 new infections on Friday, bringing the total to 8,772.
Eleven more patients died, raising the death toll to 579, DoH said in a bulletin. Forty-one more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 1,084, it added.
Mr. Roque earlier said people attending religious services and work-related meetings must observe social distancing to prevent the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from spreading.
Minimum health standards must also be met including wearing face masks and shields and hand sanitation, he added.
Under the rules, social distancing of at least a meter between passengers of public transportation will be enforced.
Low- and medium-risk areas will be placed under a more relaxed lockdown starting May 1.
High-risk areas such as Metro Manila, Central Luzon except Aurora, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Pangasinan, Benguet, Iloilo, Cebu and Davao City will remain under the stricter enhanced community quarantine until May 15.
Bacolod was also included in high-risk areas as proposed by provincial officials.
The movement of people under the general community quarantine will be limited to accessing basic needs and work in permitted industries, Mr. Roque said on Thursday.
Starting May 16, all decisions to impose, lift or extend a community quarantine in provinces, highly-urbanized cities and independent component cities will be made by the inter-agency task force, according to a copy of the rules.
Provincial governors may impose, lift or extend the quarantine in cities and municipalities upon the concurrence of the relevant regional counterpart body of the task force.
Local chief executives of cities and municipalities may also impose, lift or extend the enhanced community quarantine in villages, upon the concurrence of the relevant regional counterpart body of the task force.
President Rodrigo R. Duerte locked down the entire Luzon island on March 17, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain a COVID-19 outbreak. He has extended this twice — first by two more weeks until April 30 and by two more weeks until May 15 for some parts of the island.