President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday imposed a community-wide lockdown for the whole Metro Manila and suspended all land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from the metropolis starting March 15 as cases of the novel coronavirus soared to 52.
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In an address to the nation late Thursday evening, Duterte, who underwent testing for COVID-19, raised the public health alert to Code Red Sub-level 2 – the highest level prescribed by the World Health Organization.
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Under Code Red, Sub-Level 2, the strategy will shift from intensive contract tracing to community-level quarantine or lockdown, and suspension of work or school.
The recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, which Duterte approved and will formalize through an executive order, are as follows:
• Land, domestic air, and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila shall be suspended starting March 15 and will end April 14;
• The suspension of classes in all levels in Metro Manila is extended until April 12, provided that all students shall continue to fulfill their educational requirements during the said period. The Department of Interior and Local Government shall be responsible for implementing measures to ensure that students remain in their homes during the duration of the suspension.
• Local government units which have imposed community quarantine in their respective jurisdictions, upon declaration of a state of calamity, shall be allowed to access their Quick Response Fund.
• Work in the executive branch shall be suspended during the said period, without prejudice to the formation of skeletal workforces to ensure unimpeded delivery of services to the public. The legislative branch and the judiciary are encouraged to adopt the same policy.
• Flexible work arrangements shall likewise be encouraged in the private sector. The Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry shall issue guidelines to safeguard the welfare of workers.
• Mass public transports such as the Light Rail Transits, the Metro Rail Transit, and the Philippine National Railways shall continue to operate but social distancing shall be encouraged.
“This is not martial law. This is not even something that is extraordinary. What we want is to fight the virus and exact compliance,” the President said, saying the military and the police will be tapped to help implement the lockdown.
At least 40,000 policemen will be deployed in the event the government decides to implement a lockdown in certain areas in Metro Manila, Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa said in an earlier interview.
Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., for his part, said the military is prepared to augment the PNP for a “whole-of-government” approach in containing the spread of the virus.
Duterte said the provisions will be “subject to review every day, especially if there is a slowdown in the contagion.”
“Do not panic. Don’t be too stressed to the point that you disrupt your normal life. You can still continue to do so but with restrictions because of the crisis. The crisis is very, very clear,” the President said.
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He also warned citizens to follow the restrictions. “The government is doing everything possible to make it controllable. But if you don't cooperate, the problem will start with you and end with you. Disobedience is punishable under the Revised Penal Code.”
“We are in a crisis and there is no solution in sight—no solution, unless there is a vaccine,” the President added.
Under the resolution, a barangay-wide quarantine or lockdown is advised when there are two positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different households in the same barangay.
A municipality-wide or city-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different barangays in the same municipality or city.
A province-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different municipalities, component cities, or independent cities in the same province.
Aside from Duterte, his close aide and now Senator Christopher Go also underwent COVID-19 test, while several Cabinet members went on self-quarantine due to exposure to persons who tested positive for the virus.
Going into isolation for 14 days are Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Vince Dizon and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno.
“With regards to the health of President Duterte who chose to undergo testing for the coronavirus disease, he has not shown any signs of the deadly illness,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“They (Duterte and Go) are undertaking this preemptive step as per the advice of health officials given that they have regularly engaged with Cabinet officials, some of whom have opted to undergo self-quarantine as they were exposed to those infected with COVID-19,” Panelo said.
The Philippines has seen a jump this week in cases, including people who recently attended events with Senate lawmakers and government officials, potentially exposing them.
Health authorities also announced the nation’s second death, the first since an infected Chinese tourist died last month.
In response, the Senate building and Philippine central bank were undergoing cleaning, and several officials announced they would isolate themselves as a precaution.
Meanwhile, most senators have decided to stay home to await the results of tests done on Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay, who had direct contact with a COVID-19 patient whose wife, who was also infected, died at the Manila Doctors Hospital.
“We, the senators should be all tested for Covid-19 as we were exposed to a number of people. I had been warning my colleagues on the conduct of public hearings during these times but obviously some of them did not heed my warning,” said Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.
He noted that the first Filipino casualty was the wife of a resource person who attended Gatchalian’s hearing. He is in critical condition now, Zubiri added.
“Many think we are panicking but if you love your parents and your grandparents, then you should take this virus very seriously because most of those who have died are senior citizens,” Zubiri said in a mix of English and Filipino.
He urged the Department of Health to make thousands of testing kits available.
Following the decision of Gatchalian to go into self-quarantine, Binay said she too would do so.
“Senator Gatchalian and I were present during the March 5, 2020 hearing, and it is with a heavy heart to learn that one of our resource speakers has been tested positive for COVID-19,” she said.
“I have asked my staff to do the same and take precautionary steps to limit face-to-face interactions,” Binay added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, too, said he would go into self-quarantine.
“In my case, since I shared the elevator with Senator Gatchalian yesterday afternoon on our way to the session hall, I am taking precaution by doing self-quarantine while waiting for the result of his test. If he tests positive, I will have to undergo the test myself,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he had no exposure to the COVID-19 patient when he went to the Senate on March 5, but would go into self-quarantine anyway in view of his exposure to Gatchalian and Binay.
Meanwhile, presidential daughter and Mayor Sara Duterte submitted herself for a voluntary, monitored home quarantine and signed up as a Person Under Monitoring (PUM) under the Davao City Health Office.
“She is now confined in an isolated bedroom at her residence and will continue to work through emails, messaging, and videotelecon,” a city hall statement released on Thursday reads.
The BSP issued an advice Thursday morning that work in the main office in Malate, Manila as well as the Security Plant Complex in Quezon City—where the banknotes and coins are produced—was suspended until March 13 to facilitate disinfection of the premises as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.
“The BSP, however, shall continue normal open market and PhilPass settlement operations as well as the servicing of cash withdrawals by banks at the SPC,” the statement read.
Diokno said the conduct of the second policy meeting for the year of the Monetary Board on March 19 will go on as planned. “It will be held as scheduled,” he said. He said work will resume at the BSP on Monday.
On Wednesday night, Dominguez said in a Viber message that he was on a self-quarantine after learning that a COVID-19 patient was in an event last Thursday and Friday.
“I was told that a fellow I met with last Thursday and Friday last week has tested positive for COVID-19 today. I have no symptoms but I am self-isolating until I get tested,” Dominguez said.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno also said he would go on self-quarantine after returning from London where he met with the UK’s task force on the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank’s said in a statement that its staff were temporarily working from home starting Thursday following advice that a visitor to the bank has tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19.
“The bank’s Manila headquarters facility will be closed from 12 March to undertake cleaning and disinfecting. Bank operations will continue. ADB Management will make a decision in coming days on when to reopen the bank premises,” it said.
“The safety of staff, visitors to the bank, and their families is of utmost importance to us. We are providing support to staff who interacted with the visitor,” said ADB vice president for administration and corporate management Deborah Stokes.
The House of Representatives’ headquarters at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City will undergo cleaning and disinfection procedures starting Friday until Sunday (March 13 to 15).
The head office of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in Pasay City was closed on Thursday following the confirmed case at the Senate.
“In light of the confirmation that a resource person who attended a hearing at the Senate (housed in the GSIS building) tested positive for Covid-19, the GSIS Head Office in Pasay City is temporarily closed as an urgent precautionary measure,” the GSIS said in an advisory. With Willie Casas, Rio N. Araja, and AFPREAD: Arrest hoarders, Malacañang orders
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