Under the setting of the lockdown imposed by Italy amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, the government barred the entry or exit of persons in lockdown areas, unless they are proven to be family members or for work purposes; and movement inside the areas were likewise discouraged unless they were justified for urgent personal or work reasons and can’t be postponed.
Likewise, people with symptoms (respiratory infection and fever) were “highly recommended” to remain home, while standard time off of healthcare workers were suspended.
All educational establishments (such as schools and universities), gyms, museums, ski stations, cultural and social centers, swimming pools, and theaters were ordered closed, while bars and restaurants had limited opening times from 6am to 6pm, with at least one meter distance between people. All pubs and clubs were closed.
The Italian government likewise ordered that all commercial activities keep a distance of one meter between customers, while those that cannot comply had to stay close. Temples were allowed to remain open as long as believers kept the required distance.
Other restrictions included: Family and friends hospital visits were limited, work meetings were postponed and work from home must be encouraged, all sports events and competitions, public or private, were canceled; and important events were only allowed under closed doors.
While President Duterte has announced restricted land, domestic sea and domestic air travels in Metro Manila, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said a “lockdown should be the last option” in the bid to control the spread of COVID-19 and said government offices should remain open and operational.
Sotto said that while the health of government workers must remain a primordial concern, public services should not be sacrificed.
“The Filipino people need their government at this time when their welfare is at risk. They expect government leaders to be on the lookout for them. Decisions must be made. Actions must be taken. We must not turn our backs on our people, we cannot escape and hide in the comforts of our homes,” Sotto said.
He said government employees should continue to report for work but observe the strictest precautionary measures so they will not be contaminated,” he said, stressing: “A lockdown should be the last option.”
Members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) led the disinfection and sanitizing of the Malacañan Palace amid the COVID-19 spread in the country.
PSG commander Col. Jesus Durante III said the “precautionary disinfection and decontamination” was done around the Palace with special focus on the areas frequented by President Duterte like the Heroes hall, Rizal hall, study room and room where the meeting with the Cabinet and other guests are held.
The disinfection of the areas will be done on a “scheduled basis to ensure not just the safety of our President but also all of those working behind him in the seat of our government, to continuously serve the Filipino people.”
Durante said the President will continue with his work and measure like the “no touch” policy and cancellation of big crowd events would apply when needed.
The PSG said that all of the President’s foreign travels, especially to those countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19, “have been suspended as recommended by DOH”.
At the New Executive Building, which houses the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, disinfection and sanitation of some of the rooms were also done.
PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar ordered the disinfection as part of the precautionary measures and had asked for everyone’s “understanding and cooperation in taking the necessary precautions and in following safety protocols.”
Andanar said guidelines for work from home arrangements had been issued by the Department of Health and Civil Service Commission.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday night ordered for a “restricted access” to certain areas of the Senate building after a resource person during a hearing last March 5 was later found to have tested positive for COVID-19.
Sotto said the entire Senate premises will be cleaned and disinfected following the development, adding he will first seek the advice of the Senate sergeant-at-arms before he can allow normal activities inside the premises to continue.
Sotto’s order came after Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian informed him through the phone Wednesday afternoon that one of the resource persons during the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, which Gatchalian is chairman, has been confined at a Manila City hospital for COVID-19 since Wednesday.
The Office of the Senate sergeant-at-arms has reviewed CCTV footages inside the Senate building for contact tracing.
Sotto said offices or areas scheduled for cleaning and disinfection will be cordoned off and will not be accessible to any Senate employee, except for the cleaners who have been required to wear protective clothing.
He said any employee who feels any of the symptoms of COVID19, or those who have recently travelled to countries with high contamination rates, or those who had exposure to local patients should voluntarily go on self-quarantine but continue to work from home.
Sotto has requested the Department of Health for COVID-19 test kits be made available to the Senate for testing of senators and their respective staff members.
At the House, Secretary General Joel Montales announced that the whole Batasang Pambansa building will be disinfected while Congress is on recess even if it remains “COVID-free.”
Montales said the House remains “COVID-free” because there are no confirmed cases yet among lawmakers, employees, visitors and resource persons who attended this week’s committee hearings like Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade who are now on self-quarantine after coming in contact with a person who tested positive of the virus.
“To date, the House of Representatives (HRep) remains COVID-19 free. There are no confirmed cases. Neither are there Persons Under Investigation (PUI), nor Persons Under Monitoring (PUM),” he said.
One of the subordinates of Duque, who has been at the Batasan twice this week, reportedly tested positive of COVID-19.
Montales said the employees who were ordered to stay at home earlier this week as a precautionary measure after they had an indirect contact with a COVID-19 patient are all fine and are not exhibiting any symptom.
The employees had attended a wake where a person, whose brother allegedly tested positive for COVID-19, was staying in another room.
Several government agencies, as well as the Asian Development Bank, have decided to close their main offices for disinfection.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez ordered the activation of an emergency working arrangement at the DOF to ensure the continuity of its services to the public while its Manila office remain closed for sanitation process. Normal operations will resume on Monday, March 16.
Under the DOF Continuity Program, which Dominguez said was triggered upon his instruction “whenever disasters and other abnormal events occur,” alternate locations were identified for the different DOF groups where their respective skeletal forces will temporarily hold office.
“Under these arrangements, the DOF building is abandoned and DOF holds office in alternate offices,” Dominguez said in a statement yesterday.
Among those identified as alternate offices for the different DOF groups are the Social Security Office (SSS) office in Makati City Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) in Intramuros, Manila; Land Bank of the Philippines office in Manila and Makati City; National Power Corp.
Office in Quezon City; and the Philippine Guarantee Corp. Office in Makati City.
Dominguez has also ordered the DOF-attached agencies, which include the BTr and the Bureaus of Customs (BOC) and of Internal Revenue (BIR), to thoroughly disinfect all their respective premises this weekend.
The BTR will be closed today, March 13, in compliance with the DOF’s directive to sanitize.
However, those involved in the vital operations or services of the bureau will continue to function with a skeletal workforce. Regular work will also resume on Monday.
The SSS also announced in a separate statement that the SSS main office, SSS Makati building, and SSS Gil-Puyat Branch will be closed today, for disinfection until the weekend, if necessary.
The regular disinfection of SSS offices will also be increased, prioritizing areas with a large volume of member’s transactions, the agency said.
Aside from the regular temperature check at all entry points, the pension fund said members will now be requested to answer a questionnaire to determine possible exposure to the virus.
The SSS said it will issue a separate advisory for other branches that will require a temporary closure.
The GSIS head office in Pasay City will be temporarily closed as an urgent precautionary measure. All members, pensioners, and other transacting clients are advised to use the online channels and other platforms for your records verification, inquiries, and other GSIS transactions.
Rey Leonardo Guerrero, customs commissioner, also reported to Dominguez that the BOC’s offices will be disinfected over the weekend.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) also said that work at its Central Office will continue to be suspended until today, March 13, to complete the disinfection and sanitation procedures. – With Victor Reyes, Jocelyn Montemayor, Wendell Vigilia, Angela Lorraine Celis, Gerard Naval and Ashzel Hachero