Police in the Philippines have officially discouraged holding hands or hugging and kissing in public in an attempt to control a spike in coronavirus cases, though it remains unclear how they plan to enforce the crackdown on public displays of affection.
In a statement that immediately drew jeers and ridicule, a police spokesperson said its ranks will “remind” couples not to be affectionate with each other in public places.
“It will most likely affect the couples, sweethearts, friends and other intimate relationships,” Ildebrandi Usana told dzMM radio on Wednesday.
Officially, there is no law banning PDA in the Philippines, but the country most affected by the coronavirus in Southeast Asia has been imposing strict curbs to combat it, including lengthy lockdowns. The new anti-PDA policy comes as the government opens up the economy, allowing people to travel for leisure, go to movies and attend small events.
The Philippines has recorded more than 600,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 13,000 deaths as the global pandemic stretches into a second year. But its government has come under fire for its handling of the crisis and for unclear plans to secure vaccines.
The new virus control measures were met with public displays of anger—at least online— while others poked fun at the bizarre order, saying it was not their problem since they’re single anyway. Critics said it was illustrative of the government’s failure to control the virus and a lack of substantive ideas.
“Too many measures but hardly with impact,” Dr. Tony Leachon, a known critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s COVID approach, told VICE World News. “The government should go back to basics. Science-based approach!”
Dr. Gideon Lasco, an academic and columnist with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said the same.
“Exhibit A of the Philippine pandemic response: Too many rules for individuals to follow, too little meaningful action from the government,” he said in a tweet.
But infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Ong-Lim said the police order could help curb the transmission of the virus simply by discouraging close contact outside of homes.
“Coming from the infectious disease perspective, let’s take a look at the intention of the directive. We want the physical distancing rules to be observed at all times and the public display of affections covers that. It’s really just a way to make sure of a consistent implementation,” she told ABS-CBN News.