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Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo asked shopping malls and other establishments to dissuade students from entering their establishments to minimize the risk of students contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Panelo made this suggestion after President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night announced the suspension of classes in all levels from March 10 to 14 in Metro Manila as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the highly-infectious disease.

“What the malls and the movie houses should do is not to allow those students. They should also cooperate. I’m appealing to them kasi nga kailangan tayo magtulungan (because we need to help each other). We should be creative,” he said in a regular Palace briefing.


He clarified that his idea to discourage students from entering malls, cinemas, and other establishments was “just an appeal” for students’ own good.

“Pag nakapasok ka, nagkaroon ng infection e di lalo na may problema sila (If you enter the mall and get infected, then they would have a bigger problem),” he said.

He said malls and other establishments that still allow students to enter will not be held liable.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has also directed all Metro Manila mayors, their respective punong barangays (village chiefs), and Philippine National Police (PNP) to keep all students away from malls, movie houses, public markets and other crowded places to stop and contain the spread of Covid-19 in the communities.

Students seen loitering around will be immediately sent home to do their homework, Año said.

Parents were also encouraged to closely supervise their children and ensure that they stay home and do their homework, noting that allowing their kids outside would defeat the very purpose of the class suspension as a measure to prevent the spread of the disease.

Following calls to suspend graduation rites, Panelo said he will leave the decision to the Department of Education but pointed out that ceremonies could always be reset.

He urged the public to comply with recommendations of the Department of Health (DOH) to stay indoors, avoid crowds, and limit social events unless important.

Those with scheduled international travels could also move their schedule to a much later date, he said.

Too early for lockdown

Amid the insistence of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda to consider placing a lockdown in Metro Manila to contain the disease, Panelo echoed Duterte’s words: “It’s not the time yet.”

On Monday night, Duterte said it was “too early” to call for a lockdown since the country has not yet reached sustained community transmission of the Covid-19 despite a spike in the number of confirmed cases.

“We have not reached that kind of contamination. Iisa-isa lang (One at a time). With this transmission, you want to close down the economy at this time?” he said in a press briefing in Malacañang after a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

He said the need to lockdown Metro Manila may arise once the number of confirmed cases reaches thousands.

“Maybe kung 'yang lugar na pinuntahan ng mga Pilipino, magsabi ka ang namatay doon mag-abot na ng 20,000 o sa isang lugar may 5,000, sigurado, I will lock (Maybe if the places visited by Filipinos, you’d say the fatalities there reached 20,000 or in one area 5,000, for sure, I will lock),” he said.

Duterte’s former aide and Senator Christopher “Bong” Go suggested that government can place “certain areas” under lockdown once the emergency health alert level is raised to sublevel 2 from the current sublevel 1.

The DOH on Tuesday reported 11 additional confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 35.

On Monday, Duterte has issued a proclamation formally declaring a state of public health emergency.

He also ordered the suspension of all schools in the National Capital Region from March 10 to 14 to ensure the safety of students from the disease.

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