President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced tougher measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including work and class suspensions as well as travel restrictions, as part of a "community quarantine" in Metro Manila.
The Philippines raised Code Red Sub-Level 2 over the COVID-19 threat.
Addressing the nation from Malacañang, Duterte said government work would be suspended and skeletal workforce will be implemented.
Land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila will be suspended from March 15, 2020 until April 14, 2020, subject to daily review of the government.
Duterte announced the "community quarantine" over the national capital region after his meeting with the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in Malacañang.
“It’s just a matter of protecting public interest and public health,” Duterte said.
"Ayaw naming gamitin yan kasi takot sa lockdown, but it’s a lockdown,. There is no struggle of power here, it is a matter of protecting and defending you from COVID-19," he added.
The movement of goods to and from Metro Manila will not be affected by the quarantine. “Cargoes, food and non-food okay to move,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a text message.
Officials of the road sector of the Department of Transportation will meet with interior and health officials on Friday to define the rules of the quarantine in Metro Manila.
"We will update you once we have the guidelines already," Transportation Undersecretary Goddess Libiran said on Friday night.
Local government units in other areas were advised to abide by the guidelines set by the IATF.
Class, work suspensions
Duterte also said classes in Metro Manila are suspended until April 12. The government urged LGUs outside Metro Manila to exercise sound discretion in suspending classes in their respective areas.
Mass gatherings, planned or spontaneous, will also be prohibited, Duterte said.
Duterte also announced the suspension of work in the executive branch of the government which according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra will last for a month.
"Work in the executive branch shall be suspended during this period... without prejudice to the formation of skeletal workforces by government agencies in order to maintain the unimpeded delivery of services to the public," Duterte said.
"Flexible work arrangements shall likewise shall be encouraged in the private sector," he added.
Meanwhile, overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) would be allowed to return to mainland China, except to Hubei province. However, the OFWs must execute and sign a declaration, signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved in their trip.
Mass public transports such as the Light Rail Transit, the Metro Rail Transit and the Philippine National Railway will continue in operation, following guidelines by the Department of Transportation intended to ensure social distancing, the President added.
“The crisis is very, very clear,” Duterte said, following a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
Duterte urged the people not to panic, follow the orders of government and practice social distancing.
“Do not kill yourself with worry. Government is doing everything to make it at least controllable,” he said.
The Philippines has so far 52 confirmed cases, including five deaths, as of Thursday, according to the Department of Health.
Duterte’s latest policy pronouncement came after several administration officials and senators announced that they have self-quarantined following exposure to persons who tested positive for the disease.
A number of government agencies have also suspended work to give way to the disinfection of their offices.
Since the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, the number of confirmed infections globally surpassed 118,000. Fifty-two of these cases have been recorded in the Philippines.
The virus has already killed more than 4,200 people, including five in the Philippines, which is now under a state of public health emergency.
The World Health Organization declared on Wednesday the viral outbreak a pandemic. —JST/NB, GMA News