Manila-- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte today signed a resolution placing highly urbanized cities in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces under general community quarantine from March 22 to April 4 due to an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases.
New restrictions will be implemented and a curfew will be imposed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Besides cities in the metropolis, also under lockdown are Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.
The alarm was raised after 7,103 Covid-19 cases were reported last Friday. It was the highest number of cases recorded in just one day. As of March 20, the Philippines had a total of 80,642 active cases.
The Philippine government has suspended the entry of all foreign nationals and returning Philippine citizens, except for overseas workers. The travel ban, which began on March 20, will stay until April 19. The number of inbound international passengers is limited to 1,500 a day.
According to Dr. Paola Gracielle Cabrera, an anesthesiologist who handles Covid-19 cases in a government tertiary hospital in Manila, the coronavirus pandemic is not something that should be feared but understood.
“As a community, we will only be able to move forward and surpass this if we actually try to understand the reasons why we should follow the health and safety protocols and restrictions of the (quarantine),” she said.
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“This way, we are not just blindly following because of fear, but because we understand the ‘why’. In life, we are faced with a lot of things that we cannot control but the pandemic is not one of them if we just follow," she added.
General community quarantine is a form of quarantine and enforced in areas considered to have low to moderate risk of Covid19 cases.
Duterte’s critics, alleging that the lockdowns were more than a public health measure, fear that the president would use the pandemic to place the country under martial rule.
Under the new directive, only essential travel in those areas is allowed, public transportation remains operational, all mass gatherings such as religious congregations are prohibited, virtual meetings are encouraged over face-to-face meetings.
Social events such as weddings, baptisms and funeral services are limited to 10 people.
The private sector is required to have 30 percent-50 percent working capacity while observing health protocols. Dining establishments shall be limited to delivery and takeout services.
Alfresco dining is allowed provided that additional engineering and administrative controls are in place including placing acrylic or similar dividers and limiting to two persons per table.
Curfew hours run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. except cargo vehicles and public transportation workers.
Senior citizens, children, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, pregnant women and other health risks are required to stay home. Persons with disabilities are allowed outdoors for their therapy. Visiting persons outside immediate family or other households are discouraged.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government has been tasked to authorize all local government units to implement and execute the quarantine guidelines.
Local governments are required to ensure that the protocols for isolation and quarantine are completed before facilitating reintegration in the community, monitor minimum public health standards, the Barangay Health Emergency Response team is responsible for distributing masks and face shields, especially to vulnerable sectors.
The first lockdown in Metro Manila was implemented in June 2020, which carried more relaxed rules than the modified enhanced community quarantine. The IATF resolution also stated that these continued proactive measures are necessary to ensure the utmost protection of the health of the Filipino people.