'COVID-19 free' Cotabato City begins community quarantine

Arianne Apatan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2020 10:27 AM

COTABATO CITY - Cotabato City on Monday began its community quarantine to prevent possible carriers of the COVID-19 from entering southwestern Mindanao's economic center, its mayor said.

Cotabato City has yet to record a COVID-19 case, but the local government opted to limit the entry and exit of passengers to the city as a precaution, Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said.

"Considering that it is an open city and people from its nearby towns freely go in and out on a daily basis, we do not want this virus to enter our city and affect our citizens. That is why we are doing all we can to assure their safety,” Guiani-Sayadi said.

During the city's quarantine period, the Philippine National Police is mandated to profile all individuals entering Cotabato City by asking people in checkpoints to fill up forms. Thermal checks will also be conducted along the city's gateways.

The delivery of goods and other commodities will be allowed but still subject to profiling at the checkpoints.

Workers who live outside the city will be allowed to enter provided that they will be able to present identification cards and/or business permits.

Work will not be suspended in the city but government and private institutions are encouraged to implement flexible working hours.

"These are just the initial measures that we will be implementing while under community quarantine. As time passes by and we will need stricter regulations, we will inform the public the soonest possible time," Guiani- Sayadi said.

Classes on all levels in public and private schools have been suspended until further notice as the local government urged the public to stay indoors during the quarantine period.

"People are encouraged to stay inside their homes if they do not have important transactions outside. They may come out to work, buy food and medicines, go to the hospital and other urgent matters," according to the city's quarantine guidelines.

The city government has also "required" Cotabato residents to "procure services and buy goods online" as much as possible, and opt for online bank transactions instead of queuing in physical establishments.

The government has not ordered the temporary closure of malls and hotels, but ordered these commercial facilities to mount sanitation zones at their respective entry points.

Jail visitations, flag raising ceremonies in government offices, and official and personal travel for public workers have been disallowed.

Government employees who recently traveled to areas with local COVID-19 transmission are required to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and must secure clearance from the City Health Office before reporting back to work, according to the city's guidelines.

Employees who have flu-like symptoms are "prohibited to report for work in the office and shall seek medical consultation and submit a certificate from the City Health Office before reporting back to work," it said.

Guiani-Sayadi first made the announcement of community quarantine hours after a COVID-19 patient from Lanao del Sur died at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro.

The 54-year-old Filipino male was the first coronavirus fatality recorded outside Metro Manila.

Cotabato City is the first Mindanao province set to implement a community quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier placed Metro Manila under a month-long community quarantine as COVID-19 cases in the capital region continue to rise.

Under the executive order, areas with at least 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in different localities must be placed on quarantine to avoid spreading the disease to other parts of the country.

The Philippines is currently under a state of public health emergency as government agencies enforce stricter measures to contain the disease that has killed more than 11 people and infected around 140 others in the country.

Globally, nearly 6,000 COVID-19 patients have died, while almost 150,000 others tested positive for the coronavirus pandemic.