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Luzon airports to close after 72 hours

International airports in Luzon were given a 72-hour window to accommodate all foreigners seeking to exit the country, after which all gateways from the mainland will be closed.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), outbound passengers are allowed to fly out of the island within 72 hours from the issuance of the enhanced community quarantine.

"Outbound passengers intending to depart the Philippines from any of the international airports in Luzon shall be allowed to travel for a period of 72 hours from the effectivity of the enhanced community quarantine," it said in guidelines released to reporters.

"Inbound international passengers in transit upon effectivity of the enhanced community quarantine shall be allowed entry subject to applicable quarantine procedures if coming from countries with existing travel restrictions," the guidelines stated.

The entire Luzon was placed under enhanced community quarantine at 12 a.m. on Tuesday as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"After the 72-hour window, all airports in Luzon will be closed," DOTr spokesperson Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran told reporters.

According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, those who will not be able to secure flights during the 72-hour window will be presumed to have chosen to stay in the Philippines.

"Based on discussion with IATF, those who really want to leave, will really have to leave within 72 hours. They have to make up their minds," he said.

"Ang iniiwasan po natin ay involuntarily stranded here. We are giving them 72 hours to fly. We assume that after 72 hours, it is your decision to stay here," he elaborated.

Moving forward, the DOTr said only Filipino passengers will be allowed entry in Luzon airports, while some foreigners will be exempted, subject to conditions.

"Only Filipino passengers shall be allowed entry," said Libiran, noting that no Filipinos will be allowed to leave via Luzon airports as well.

"Ang instruction, no Filipinos shall be allowed to leave the country," she added.

Public transportation

The government suspended public transportation as the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon took effect, which left several commuters stranded at checkpoints and terminals.

Most of the stranded commuters were ordinary workers who said they did not have enough time to prepare for what they described as a "lockdown."

Some commuters have been stranded since Monday night, such as those at the boundary of Valenzuela City and Meycauayan, Bulacan.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the area past 4 a.m. on Monday and talked to police officers manning the checkpoint. After he left, police allowed commuters and motorists to pass through.

Under enhanced community quarantine, classes and all school activities in all levels are suspended until April 14 and mass gatherings are prohibited.

Work in the executive branch of government shall be in a work-from-home arrangement except for the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard and health and emergency frontline services, border control and other critical services.

In the private sector, only private establishments providing basic necessities will be allowed to operate.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country was at 142 as of Monday night after the Department of Health confirmed two new cases. —KG, GMA News