PRESIDENT Duterte on Thursday night placed Metro Manila under “community quarantine” for 30 days after raising the public health alert level to Code Red Sub-Level 2 as a result of the continued rise in the localized transmission and the spike in the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.
In a televised address nationwide, Duterte said land, air and sea travel in and out of Metro Manila would be suspended from March 15 to April 14. He added that under the Code Red Level 2, local government units surrounding Metro Manila are advised to implement localized community quarantine when necessary.
Duterte also said the suspension of classes has been extended up to April 12.
Duterte issued these directives as a climate of fear descended on Metro Manila in the wake of the death of a 67-year-old female patient at the Manila Doctors Hospital, the first local fatality of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 that was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday night.
Duterte addressed the nation after a three-hour meeting with officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease behind closed doors at Malacanang.
His directives were contained in a resolution prepared by the Inter-Agency Task Force that made the rounds of social media earlier in the day.
In his opening statement, Duterte called on the public not to panic despite serious conditions facing the country caused by the virus that has claimed the lives of more than 4,600, infected more than 126,000 people across the world, restricted travel worldwide and caused massive economic breakdown.
Metro Manila residents, however, continued to resort to panic buying Thursday, with long queues observed in supermarkets and groceries, while the flow of traffic was considerably faster as motorists opted to stay indoors.
“Community quarantine is hereby imposed in the entirety of Metro Manila,” the President said as he read through the resolution recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force.
Duterte likened the community quarantine into a lockdown but said that he refused to use the word as it scares people. He said the community quarantine is only intended to deter the spread of the COVID-19.
He advised the public not to be scared or nervous, adding they should follow and cooperate with government authorities.
He also said that the military and the police will be there to ensure the effective and orderly implementation and compliance with the community quarantine.
“Hindi ito martial law. It is not a martial law. It is not even something extraordinary. What is sought to be solved here is, again, walang iba except to fight the virus and to exact compliance, Mas mabuti talaga, maniwala kayo (This is not martial law. It is not a martial law. It is not even something extraordinary. What is sought to be solved here is the again, nothing more except to fight the virus and to exact compliance. It would be better of you just believe),” the President said.
Duterte said that under the community quarantine, mass gatherings, especially events that would hamper the planning and response of the community, would be prohibited in the affected areas.
Classes in all levels in public and private schools in Metro Manila will remain suspended until April 12, but students are advised to stay at home while completing their educational requirement during the period. The schools are expected to make some arrangements as it how it would be done.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been directed to ensure that the students would remain in their homes during the period.
Outside Metro Manila, local government units are advised to exercise discretion in deciding if they too would suspend the classes in their jurisdiction.
The President said the mass public transports like the Light Rail Transit, Metro Rail Transit and Philippine National Railways shall continue to operate during the period but the Department of Transportation shall imposed the necessary guidelines to promote social distancing even in the lass transport set up.
He said a barangay-wide quarantine will be done if there are two positive COVID-19 cases in different households located in the same barangay; a municipal or city wide quarantine if there are two positive COVID-19 cases from in different barangays located in the same municipality or city; and a province-wide quarantine if there are two positive cases from two different municipalities or cities from the same province.
The declaration of localized community quarantines would enable the local government units concerned, after declaring a state of calamity, to tap their quick response fund (QRF).
While the community quarantine is in effect in Metro Manila, work in the executive branch of government would also be suspended. A skeletal workforce would be maintained to oversee the unimpeded delivery of basic services while health and emergency frontline services shall continue to be in full operation. The legislative and judicial branches are encouraged to adopt the said policy.
In the private sector, the government encouraged the adoption of flexible working arrangements as it encouraged all manufacturing, retail and service establishments to continue their operations even as they are advised to observe social distancing in the workplace.
As this developed, the government is partially lifting its travel ban to China allowing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who have employment arrangements in the said country.
Filipinos, however, are still barred from travelling to Hubei province, the reported epicenter of the virus.
Entry of foreigners, from countries with confirmed local transmission of COVID-19 cases would still be restricted.