Enforcing the health protocols
Air travel from countries where the “double mutant” COVID variant is rampaging has been banned. But a ship from India that was turned away by Vietnam after its crew including Filipinos tested positive for COVID-19 has been allowed to dock at Sangley Point in Cavite. Two of the crewmembers who are in critical condition have been brought to a local hospital.
So the National Capital Region and the neighboring provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan or NCR Plus, already forced to return to stricter quarantine because of a variant-fueled surge in infections and deaths since March, must brace for the spread of the double mutant COVID variant from India.
Amid this heightened threat, strict compliance with COVID health protocols becomes even more important. The most basic defense, as health experts have stressed, is the facemask. It protects the wearer from infection, and others from catching droplets from an infected person. But it works only if worn properly – meaning the mask covers the nostrils and mouth.
Since the start of the pandemic, rules have been set on mask wearing, and thousands of violators have been apprehended. Yet even in this ongoing deadly COVID surge, many people are still caught on video and in photos wearing their masks below their noses or on their chin, while walking, shopping or riding in public transportation.
The images alarmed President Duterte enough to make him order the Philippine National Police to arrest those who are caught not wearing their masks properly in public. It was in fact a reiteration of existing rules, and the PNP simply intensified the enforcement, rounding up violators not only of mask wearing but also of curfew hours and rules on mass gatherings.
With previous controversial cases in mind, the PNP must ensure that those apprehended do not end up being exposed to infection while in police custody or subjected to punishment that puts their health and life at risk. Last April, Darren Peñaredondo, 28, died after being apprehended in General Trias, Cavite for buying a bottle of water during curfew hours and then being made by police to perform 300 squats.
The state is duty-bound to enforce rules that are meant to keep the public safe. State power, however, must always be wielded with prudence and humanity. For the public, voluntary adherence to the COVID health protocols is still best. It can’t be emphasized enough that those protocols are for your own good, and those of your loved ones.