Luzon under enhanced community quarantine as COVID-19 cases rise

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2020 03:35 PM | Updated as of Mar 16 2020 09:14 PM

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MANILA (7th UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte announced Monday an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon as the government sought to contain the rapidly spreading new coronavirus disease that has claimed at least 12 lives in the country.

“I am placing the entire mainland of Luzon under quarantine until April 12, 2020 coinciding with the entire end of the Holy Week. Let me make myself clear, this is not martial law,” President Duterte said in a public address.

The enhanced community quarantine which is equivalent to an “absolute lockdown or total lockdown” is effective “immediately,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

Establishments offering basic services and goods meanwhile will be allowed to operate, Duterte said.

The tougher quarantine means strict home confinement in all households, suspended transportation lines, regulated provision for food and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce isolation procedures.

"It means that all persons will be subjected to strict home quarantine, no movement and no transportation, except only for frontline health workers, authorized government officials, medical or humanitarian [reasons] as well as transport of basic services and necessities," Panelo earlier said.

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Work, especially in all government offices, will be suspended but skeletal force will be maintained.

“We want to do business, we want to make money...but there is no interaction now and there is no trade to speak of,” the President said as he urged big business firms to continue paying their workers during the quarantine period.

HOW WILL IT WORK?

Under the enhanced community quarantine, Panelo said "food and essential needs will be delivered in homes care of the respective local government units." 

"The respective LGUs will have to create a system where food and essential needs will be delivered to the homes of the communities," he said. "In other words, we will not allow a rush to getting food and supplies because there will be sufficient food and supply."

Local government units meanwhile are required to ensure that there is no panic-buying in their communities. 

"When you say there is quarantine in your homes, it means you don't need to travel. You don't need transportation for that except only for medical and humanitarian reasons," Panelo said. 

"I would like to convey to our people, the President's ultimate goal is to save ourselves from ourselves. We have to do everything to protect ourselves. This is a matter of national survival, of life and death, so we have to sacrifice.”

The new declaration is a stricter and wider version of a general community quarantine which was earlier imposed in Metro Manila.

Under the general community quarantine, movement of people is limited only to accessing basic necessities and work, and the presence of uniformed personnel and quarantine officers.

The President announced the new directive following a meeting with the government inter-agency task force leading the country’s response to the virus outbreak, and just 2 days since the capital region was placed under “community quarantine.”

Panelo earlier said he and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año are among the officials who called for a total lockdown of Metro Manila as more cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by health authorities.

Hundreds in Metro Manila faced community quarantine woes on Monday—ranging from cramped public utility vehicles to checkpoint problems—on the first day of the work week under the stricter measures aimed to control the spread of COVID-19.

As of Monday night, there are 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, including 12 fatalities.

More areas outside Metro Manila meanwhile have declared quarantine measures against the new disease that globally has infected more than 160,000 people and claimed the lives of nearly 6,500.