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Duterte places Philippines under state of calamity

AAARGH! A man carries his bicycle to get through a police checkpoint on Marcos Highway in Marikina City clogged with motorcyclists and other travelers trying to go to work on Tuesday, the second day of a month long quarantine of Metro Manila—and the first in the rest of Luzon—due to the coronavirus. Malacañang announced that the government will use Army trucks and private buses to ferry employees of essential businesses that are exempted from the quarantine. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity for six months due to the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The move would give all areas of the country more elbow room to respond to the disease and halt its contagion.

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As of Tuesday, the Philippines has 187 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 14 deaths.

Duterte declared a state of public health emergency in the country last week and placed the main island of Luzon under a monthlong quarantine on Monday to fight the virus.

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Use of funds

Proclamation No. 929 would allow the national government and the local governments “ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund, in their disaster preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus) and to continue to provide basic services to the affected population.”

“All government agencies and [local governments] are enjoined to render full assistance to and cooperation with each other and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate disaster response aid and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19,” it said.

It noted that despite government interventions, the number of coronavirus cases in the country had continued to rise.

The National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council then recommended the declaration of a state of calamity in the entire country.

The proclamation also directs all law enforcement agencies, with the support of the military, to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in areas with infections.

It further states that the executive secretary, the health secretary, and the heads of concerned departments should issue guidelines for the implementation of the quarantine in Luzon.

The state of calamity would last for six months unless earlier lifted or extended, depending on the circumstances.

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The resolution was issued on March 16.

Malacañang also issued on Tuesday Memorandum Circular No. 77 ordering that existing price control measures being implemented for emergency medicines, medical supplies, and basic agricultural and fishery commodities be maintained.

Price controls

It directs all government agencies and local governments to strictly implement the price control issuances of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).

It also directs the DOH and the DA, and the Department of Trade and Industry to undertake continuous monitoring and review the prices of basic commodities within their jurisdictions.

The circular was effective immediately.

On Tuesday, the DOH reported 45 new confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections in the county to 187, all but three of those in the past 11 days.

The DOH reported two new deaths, bringing the death toll to 14.

Assistant Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also reported that a DOH official has tested positive for the coronavirus. She did not identify the official.

President Duterte on Monday expanded a quarantine imposed on Sunday on Metro Manila to include the rest of Luzon, in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus that has killed 7,165 people and sickened 182,260 others across the globe.

It wasn’t clear on Tuesday whether the 45 new cases included a second employee of the House of Representatives who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement, Jose Luis Montales, the House secretary-general, said the employee worked at the House Printing Service, the same office where the first employee of the chamber to test positive for the virus had worked.

“He last reported for work on March 5. He went on leave on March 6, and was admitted to the hospital on March 7,” Montales said.

The employee was initially diagnosed with dengue, he said, but was confirmed on Tuesday to be positive for the new coronavirus after his March 12 and March 14 tests returned.

The first House employee to get the virus died on Sunday.

While information on the nationality, condition and possible exposure of the 45 new cases are still being verified by the DOH, initial data from the agency showed that all except one are confined in various hospitals in Metro Manila.

Case 145, a 32-year-old Filipino man, was admitted on Tuesday at Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.

Another patient was also reported to have recovered, the second of the new cases recorded in the country. He is the 31-year-old Filipino crew member of the cruise ship Diamond Princess who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, toward the end of his 14-day quarantine at New Clark City.

The patient, who is the 25th coronavirus case in the country, was asymptomatic when he was confirmed to have contracted the virus on March 9. He received treatment at Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga, and was scheduled to be discharged on Tuesday after testing negative for the virus twice.

Three other patients have also recovered from the disease—two Chinese tourists and one Filipino.

On Monday night, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed that the DOH no longer saw links among the confirmed cases, prompting the agency to raise the alert to the highest level.

“There is already unlinkable clustering of cases or untraceable chains of transmission in the community,” he said.

Due to the limited capacity of the country to test patients who have possibly contracted the virus, Duque said the “real number” of positive cases was unknown. He estimated some 160 positive cases remain “undetected.”

People who suspect they have contracted the virus or need assistance due to exposure to a known coronavirus case may call the DOH hotlines—02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555.

“We expect an influx of calls in the first few days. We ask for the public’s cooperation and patience to allow only relevant and important calls to go through. In that way, we can provide timely medical assistance to those who really need it,” Duque said in a statement late on Tuesday.

He said the 02-894-COVID hotline was free 27/7. Smart and PLDT subscribers can use the 1555 hotline for free, while subscribers to other networks can access this once “technical adjustments” have been completed.

P30B for hospitals

Meanwhile, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) said it was ready to release an initial P30 billion to its accredited hospitals to help them respond to the crisis.

The amount is equivalent to three months’ worth of claims based on historical data and will be charged to the hospital’s future claims.

According to PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales, the hospitals need only submit a letter of intent to be able to avail themselves of the fund. He added that even those “facing sanctions for various violations of their contracts” can also access the fund.

The filing period for claims of health-care providers was also extended from 60 days to 120 days.

Paying members were also provided relief as the deadline for the payment of first-quarter contributions was moved to April 30 from March 31.

With reports from the wires and Melvin Gascon

News handpicked by our editors


For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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