Various health concerns were raised after estimated 100 individuals were spotted swimming, hanging out and disregarding minimum public health protocols for COVID-19 in Manila Bay near the Senate Building in Pasay City.
News outlets shared pictures of Filipinos enjoying the natural harbor on Sunday while the National Capital Region stays under Alert Level 4 of the general community quarantine up to October 15.
Reports said that minors were among those who were seen wading in the waters along the Diokno Boulevard in Pasay City around noon.
The Pasay City Police said that the swimmers were not noticed immediately as there is a quarantine facility blocking the view of the bay.
The guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases state that individual outdoor exercises for all ages are allowed under Alert Level 4.
Those with immunodeficiencies, comorbidities or other health
risks, and pregnant women are also allowed to individually exercise outdoors but only within the general area of their residence such as their barangay, purok, subdivision, and/or village.
Those who are fully vaccinated and over 65 years old are likewise allowed to individually exercise outdoors beyond the general area
of their respective residences.
The activities are allowed provided that they observe the minimum public health and safety protocols such as the wearing of face masks and the maintenance of physical distancing measures.
The IATF also said that under Alert Level 4, “social events such as but not limited to gatherings at residences with any person outside of one’s immediate household, concerts and parties, wedding receptions, engagement parties, wedding anniversaries, debut and birthday parties, family reunions, and bridal or baby showers, parades, processions, motorcades,” are not allowed.
It similarly said that “all contact sports whether indoor or outdoor, except those conducted under a bubble-type setup as provided for under relevant guidelines adopted by the IATF, and approved by the LGU where such games shall be held,” are prohibited.
The circulating photos alarmed online Filipinos who voiced their health concerns following the reports.
“Maawa kayo sa HCW…” a Twitter user said amid the violation of public health protocols. “HCW” stands for healthcare workers.
“Diyos ko, maawa naman kayo sa mga health worker, exhausted na sa pagod sa hospital tapos kayo mga pasaway,” wrote a Facebook user.
The Department of Health requires everyone to have at least a one-meter distance from everyone. This is nearly equivalent to a length of a motorcycle.
Meanwhile, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Protection said that individuals should observe “at least 6 feet” or “about an arm’s length” distance from each other to mitigate the risk.
“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 further said.
A Twitter user also raised concern on the cleanliness of the bay’s waters.
“Good luck sa mga bacterial flora na makikita niyo sa tubig diyan??? Clear does not automatically mean clean. hOMAYGAHD,” a Twitter user said.
Last month, Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that the waters off the baywalk area along Manila Bay can soon be fit for swimming and other contact recreational activities.
He added that the fecal coliform level in the baywalk waters has dipped to some 7,000 MPN or most probable number per 100 milliliters in August.
Cimatu said that the standard is 100 MPN per 100 ML to accommodate swimming activities.
Meanwhile, reports said that the police have issued tickets to more than 50 people for violating the COVID-19 protocols in Manila Bay.
They added that they will strictly monitor the area following the incident.
Pasay City Police chief Police Colonel Cesar Paday-os has already ordered additional police presence in the vicinity.