Metro Manila on ‘community quarantine’ as COVID-19 cases rise

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2020 09:43 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2020 10:31 PM

MANILA—The Philippine government on Thursday quarantined Metro Manila’s 12.8 million people, banned mass gatherings and suspended classes for a month in an unprecedented move to contain the fast-spreading COVID-19, which has infected at least 52 people in the country. 

Travel—whether by land, sea, or domestic air—in and out of the National Capital Region will be prohibited starting Sunday, according to an inter-agency resolution, which declared the highest Code Red Sub-level 2 because of “sustained community transmission.”

“It’s a lockdown. There is no struggle of power here…It’s just a matter of protecting and defending you from COVID-19,” Duterte said in a public address to the Filipino nation.

“Hindi ito martial law. This is not even something extraordinary,” he said.

Train systems and other forms of mass transportation will remain in operation throughout the “community quarantine” period.

But the transportation department will issue guidelines on “social distancing,” a crucial strategy to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading further.

“Community quarantine is hereby imposed in the entirety of Metro Manila,” the President said based on a resolution by the task force composed of the secretaries of health, interior, justice, tourism, labor, and foreign affairs.

Retail stores, factories, and service establishments were told to remain open but implement “strict social distancing measures.” Companies were also advised to come up with flexible work arrangements for their employees.

Outside Metro Manila, authorities were advised to impose a village-wide quarantine if at least 2 confirmed cases are recorded in different households.

The restriction may be implemented throughout a city or municipality if at least 2 persons are infected in different villages (“barangay”). Similar confirmed cases in different cities may trigger a province-wide quarantine.

Local officials were instructed to make sure that students would remain at home during quarantine. Classes were earlier suspended until Saturday, but authorities opted to keep schools shut until April 12.

Authorities also suspended work in all government agencies under the executive branch, except for health and emergency workers. Offices were also told to put up skeletal workforces.

The outbreak, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed some 4,000 people and infected 110,000 others worldwide, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global pandemic.

China earlier quarantined its entire Hubei province, a move health experts believe was instrumental in controlling the spread COVID-19.

More recently, the whole of Italy, a country of 60 million people, was locked down as the death toll due to the virus soared to more than 800 as of Thursday.