COVID-19 frontliners, workers walk to work as lockdown stops public transport

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2020 01:24 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2020 02:13 PM

Commuters scramble for a ride at the southbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Monday, the 1st work day in Metro Manila after the imposition of a "community quarantine" that will last until April 14. Thousands of workers are expected to cross the border of the region as authorities moved to halt the spread of COVID-19. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The government is looking at providing shuttle services for health workers and frontliners during the month-long “enhanced community quarantine” period as some were forced to walk to work following the suspension of public transportation.

Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo said reports of difficult public transportation for workers still required to report for work have reached the Palace, prompting an order to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to use Army trucks to ferry stranded workers, especially health professionals.

"[Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana] directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to bring out their Army trucks to ferry those who are stranded, particularly health workers and other individuals exempted from the ban, so they can be safely brought to their places of work and their homes after work,” Panelo said in a statement.

The Metro Manila Development Authority meanwhile coordinated with bus companies to send out buses that carry the official logo of the MMDA "to put law enforcement agents on notice of their purpose of free public service in favor of those exempted from home quarantine."

The Department of the Interior and Local Government meanwhile said it would discuss Tuesday afternoon the possibility of providing shuttle services for frontliners battling the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.

“Inaayos na po natin 'yung sistema para sila po ay magkaroon ng shuttle service,” he said during a press briefing.

(We are fixing the system so that they could have a shuttle service.)

For the meantime, the DILG is urging local government units across Luzon to help ferry their health workers to the hospitals.

“In the meantime, since ito po yung first day ng ating implementasyon ng ating enhanced community quarantine, ang instruction po ni Secretary [Eduardo] Año sa mga LGU ay tulungan muna ang mga iba’t-ibang ospital na ito para makapasok yung kanilang mga constituents sa mga ospital na ito,” Malaya said.

(In the meantime, since this is the first day of the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, the instruction of Secretary Año to LGUs is to help ferry their workers to hospitals.)

Luzon, including the Southwestern Tagalog Region (MIMAROPA), was placed under an enhanced community quarantine starting Tuesday which meant strict home confinement in all households, suspension of transportation lines, regulation of provision for food and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce isolation procedures. 

Government is also restricting travel for the duration of the quarantine period until April 12 with the exemption of health workers, and uniformed personnel on official business, especially those transporting medical supplies, laboratory specimens related to the COVID-19, and other humanitarian assistance.

The government has also called upon private establishments to provide temporary accommodations for their workers who are needed to report to work during the quarantine period.

“We reiterate our appeal to our countrymen that self-discipline and self-help plus selfless community cooperation are the keys to the success of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in these trying and perilous times,” Panelo said.