DOH official: Violators of mass gathering rules should be punished

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — People who defy mass gathering restrictions should be sanctioned, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday when asked to comment on the viral parties recently hosted by celebrities.

“Meron po tayong mga pamantayang sinusunod. Kapag kayo ay nahuli, because we have an IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) resolution, you should be sanctioned,” Vergeire said firmly in a briefing.

[Translation: We have rules to follow. If you are caught violating them -- because we have an IATF resolution, you should be sanctioned.]

Under current IATF guidelines, mass gatherings are prohibited in areas under general community quarantine. Mass gatherings in areas under the lowest form of quarantine or modified general community quarantine are permitted, provided that only 50% of the venue’s seating capacity will be used.

The DOH urged the Department of the Interior and Local Government to “ensure the strict enforcement of these guidelines.”

Television hosts Raymond Gutierrez and Tim Yap were criticized online after holding parties despite the mass gathering restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yap has apologized for the breach in health protocols during his party in a hotel in Baguio City on Jan. 17. Photos and videos of him and his guests showing they were not wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing circulated online.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez also drew flak supposedly for throwing a birthday celebration in BGC, Taguig City on Jan. 21. All attendees were allegedly tested before going to the BGC gathering.

But Taguig Mayor Lino Cayetano said a negative COVID-19 test result does not exempt people from the rules in the city.

“Any kind of testing does not excuse you from the rules of our city," he said Wednesday in a briefing. "Mayroon ho tayong mga patakaran. Hindi ho dahil nagpa-test kayo, exempted ho kayo. We want to make that very clear.”

[Translation: We have rules. Not because you were tested, you are already exempted from the rules.]