GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 04 April) — The city government has further restricted the movement of residents here as it intensified efforts to keep them off the streets amid the continuing enhanced community quarantine due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mayor Ronnel Rivera, through Executive Order (EO) 24 issued on Friday afternoon, ordered the clustering of the city’s 26 barangays to ensure the strict implementation of the prevailing ban on non-essential travel within the city.
He directed the segregation of the barangays and communities into 12 clusters, with some comprising up to three sections, based on their geographical location.
Starting Saturday midnight, the mayor said residents will no longer be allowed to leave their respective clusters except for medical reasons, bank transactions and other emergencies.
He said they will be allowed to leave their homes to buy food, medicine and other essential supplies upon presentation of their home quarantine passes but these should be done only within their respective clusters.
Rivera ordered the city police office, traffic management unit and the barangay councils to set up strategic checkpoints and control points “to prevent the free movement of people from one cluster to another.”
Media workers are exempted from these restrictions but should observe the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew, he said.
“This is to compel people to just stay in their homes as we continue with our efforts to prevent the disease from entering our city,” he said in a press briefing.
The clustering is among the fresh directives issued by the local government under EO 24, which amended and further strengthened its existing prevention and control measures against Covid-19.
Included in the order is the implementation of a total lockdown and ban on the use of home quarantine passes every Sunday.
Exempted from the lockdown are COVID-19 medical frontliner, pharmacy staff, police personnel and barangay tanods manning the control points and checkpoints; city social workers and members of the quick response team, inter-agency task force and the incident management team, essential workers like those involved in food production; priests/ pastors/imams, with a maximum of five assistants, who will conduct services, masses and other activities via live streaming; and, those with medical and emergency reasons.
“No resident of GenSan shall be allowed to leave their respective homes beginning 12 a.m. on Sunday,” the EO said.
The local government will also implement starting Sunday a ‘number-coding’ scheme for all public utility and private motor vehicles, including motorcycles, tricycles, trucks and buses.
Dubbed “Unified Vehicular Reduction System” or “Odd-Even Scheme,” motor vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 are only allowed to travel every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and those ending in even numbers 2, 4, 6, and 0 may be used every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Exempted from the scheme are government vehicles, food delivery or cargo trucks, medical and emergency response vehicles, and those used by public utilities, for funeral services, medical practitioners and other frontline health workers.
The EO reiterated the closure of all establishments except government offices, banks, groceries and supermarkets, wet markets, call centers/business process outsourcing, savings and credit cooperatives, food commissaries and manufacturing, food delivery services, retail and sari-sari stores, water refilling stations, funeral homes, courier services, pharmacies, medical laboratories, gas and liquefied petroleum gas outlets, construction and hardware supply, and medical, dental and veterinary clinics.
Rivera said that although the city is still considered free from COVID-19, there is a need to impose stricter measures to properly respond to and address the threats posed by the spread of the disease.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, the City Health Office said at least eight patients under investigation (PUI) have tested negative for COVID-19, two were not recommended for testing and nine were still awaiting laboratory confirmation.
Six PUIs remain admitted in various private hospitals and four are undergoing home quarantine. A total of 126 persons under monitoring are also on home quarantine. (MindaNews with a report from Richelyn Gubalani)