Duterte puts Metro Manila under ‘community quarantine’
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday imposed a 30-day lockdown on Metro Manila, prohibiting travel to and from the national capital up to April 14, extending the suspension of classes in the metropolis until April 12, and banning “planned or spontaneous” mass gatherings after the Department of Health confirmed 52 cases and five deaths from the pneumonia-like disease COVID-19.
“To my countrymen, do not panic. Please do not be stressed to the point that you may not be able to do what you want to do,” Mr. Duterte said in a nationally televised address. “You can still do so, but we will have restrictions. There will be conditions because there is a crisis.”
‘Very clear crisis’
“The crisis is very, very clear. COVID-19 is spreading throughout the country, including the Philippines,” he said. “It’s a serious one. Do not belittle it. Do not minimize it, but do not kill yourself with worry … If you do not cooperate, the problem would start and it would start with you and it will end with you.”
The President approved a resolution by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to raise the COVID-19 alert to code red sublevel 2, which imposed “community quarantine” on Metro Manila and other measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes the acute respiratory ailment.
‘We fear lockdown’
“For Manila, we don’t want to use that because we fear lockdown, but it’s a lockdown” he said. “There is no struggle of power here. It’s just a matter of protecting and defending you from COVID-19.”
He said he would “convert” the resolution into an executive order so that authorities could implement it.
The Department of Health reported five people had died since January, including three it reported on Thursday night.
Mr. Duterte said that domestic land, sea and air travel “to and from Metro Manila shall be suspended beginning March 15, 2020 and to end on April 14, 2020 … subject to the daily review of the interagency task force.”
He urged the public to follow directives from the authorities, including the military and the police.
“This is not martial law. It is not even extraordinary. What is sought to be solved here is, again, nothing else except to fight the virus and to exact compliance. It would really be better for you to believe [the authorities],” he said.
The task force resolution gave guidelines to local governments in other areas on when to impose localized community quarantine procedures—a barangay-wide quarantine when there are at least two positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different households in the same barangay; a municipality- or city-wide quarantine when there are at least two positive cases belonging to different villages in the same municipality or city; a province-wide quarantine when there are at least two positive cases belonging to different municipalities or cities in the same province.
During the class suspension, students should still continue to fulfill their academic requirements, the resolution said.
The government also will suspend work in the executive branch for 30 days, but a skeletal workforce may be established “in order to maintain the unimepeded delivery of services to the public.”
The government encouraged the private sector to adopt flexible work arrangements. The Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry were tasked to issue guidelines to safeguard the welfare of workers.
OFWs allowed to travel
“All manufacturing, retail and service establishments are advised to remain in operation during the said period, provided that strict social distancing measures are required to be observed by their respective managements,” the resolution said.
In addition, mass public transport such as the Light Rail Transits, the Metro Rail Transit, and the Philippine National Railways shall continue in operation with guidelines to ensure social distancing in public transport.
Overseas Filipino workers will be allowed to travel to China except to Hubei province upon their execution of a declaration signifying that they know and understand the risks involved. They will be given a health advisory pamphlet upon departure.
Entry travel restrictions shall be imposed on those traveling from countries with localized coronavirus transmissions, except for Filipino citizens, their spouses and children; Philippine permanent visa holders, and holders of diplomat visas issued by the Philippine government.
The secretaries of the IATF-EID’s member agencies will conduct a small strategic meeting “with the goal of mobilizing the entire government machinery in addressing the recent developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Intersectoral collaborationThe meetings will include the Cabinet secretary, secretaries of national defense, environment, trade, social welfare, education, agriculture, and other agencies that the IATF-EID may invite.
The stringent social distancing measures were issued four days after the President declared a state of public health emergency in light of rising cases of COVID-19 infections.
The IATF-EID, in pushing for the recommendations, recognized “the need for an intersectoral collaboration or to establish preparedness and ensure efficient government response to assess, monitor, contain, control and prevent the spread of any potential epidemic in the Philippines.” —WITH A REPORT FROM TINA G. SANTOS
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