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Metro Manila put under ‘community quarantine’ Mar 15 – Apr 14

12 March 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

President Duterte announcing Metro Manila's isolation at a news briefing a few hours ago

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a “community quarantine” for Metro Manila for a month starting on Sunday, Mar. 15, amid the mounting number of coronarivus infections in the country.

He issued the order during a news conference late today, Mar 12, after announcing that Code Red sublevel 2 had been raised in the country because of the contagion, indicating a community spread.

The unprecedented move is being taken as most of the Covid-19 cases, which number 60 as of this writing, have occurred in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region, which is made up of 16 cities and with a population of 12.87 million.

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President Duterte based his pronouncement on a proposed resolution approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emergency Infectious Diseases during its meeting earlier today, but he said he intended to turn it into an executive order for more weight.

He also said the effective lockdown of the country’s seat of government will be reviewed on a daily basis not only by the IATF and his Cabinet, but also by the military chiefs.

“In a total breakdown, I will need their help,” he said, but added this was not an indication of a militarized government. “Huwag kayong matakot, sundalo ninyo ang mga yan.”
The resolution provides that all land and domestic air and sea travel to and from Metro Manila, will be suspended for 30 days starting Mar 15, or until Apr 14.

International travel will continue, but no foreigners from countries with “localized transmission” will be allowed to enter the Philippines. Going by the definition of the term, this will exclude most countries where there has been a mass outbreak of Covid-19.

However, all mass public transportation within the NCR, including the MRT, LRT and the PNR, will continue operating, subject to guidelines to be issued by the Department of Transportation “to ensure social distancing.”
 
Duterte meets with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian before announcing the lockdown
Also in line with the resolution, classes in all levels will continue to be suspended until Apr 12, but students are expected to “continue to fulfill their educational requirements.”

For areas outside Metro Manila, the local government units will decide whether class suspensions are necessary.

Local officials are also empowered to impose a barangay quarantine if at least two different households have been stricken with Covid-19; a municipal quarantine if two separate barangays are infected; and provincial quarantine if at least two municipalities are affected.

There is also a prohibition against mass gatherings, but the resolution does not specify how big a group should be to fall within the restriction.

The resolution further provides that work in the executive branch shall be suspended but government agencies shall form a skeletal workforce “to maintain unimpeded delivery of services to the public.”

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No mention was made of the two other branches of government, but both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court have already announced a suspension in their work and services.

The Senate has shut down indefinitely after one of its resource persons in a hearing on Mar 5 tested positive for Covid-19. The speaker is said to be the husband of the woman who died yesterday, just hours after being diagnosed with the pneumonia-like disease.

The House of Representatives has already adjourned for its Easter break.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has declared that all hearings will be suspended from Mar 13-18.
Privately owned companies are enjoined to implement a flexible work arrangement for their employees, in accordance with guidelines to be issued by the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The new government measure includes one positive note for overseas Filipino workers from China who have been stranded since the Philippines imposed an outbound travel ban on Feb. 2. All of them, except those who are based in Hubei, will now be allowed to return to their jobsites.

The resolution on measures to contain the pandemic was drafted and approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force during its meeting earlier in the day.

The IATF members who endorsed it were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo V. Ano, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guvarra, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido J. Dulay


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