PH gov’t places entire Luzon under ‘enhanced community quarantine’

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine” to control the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak in the country, Malacañang said on Monday, March 16, 2020.

CHECKPOINT. A policeman talks with a commuter from Bulacan who decided to walk due to heavy traffic caused by a checkpoint set up near the boundary of Caloocan and Bulacan on Sunday (March 15, 2020). Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine” to control the coronavirus disease outbreak in the country. (PNA photo by Oliver Marquez)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo bared this without giving any further details as Duterte is expected to make a public address on government measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 after meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

He said the meeting is supposed to correct the problems encountered during the first two days of the community quarantine including commuters having difficulty getting rides due to the limited number of public utility vehicles (PUVs) on the road.

Under the memorandum signed by Malacañang on Friday, an “enhanced” community quarantine requires “strict” home quarantine in all households, suspends transportation, regulates food and essential health services, and heightens uniformed personnel’s presence to enforce quarantine procedures.

In an earlier press briefing the same day, Panelo bared that Interior Secretary Eduardo Año is supportive of a “total lockdown” in Metro Manila to prevent the number of infected persons from rising.

“Si Secretary Año, ay ‘yun din ang nirerekomenda. ‘Yan din ang nirerekomenda ko (This is what Secretary Año is recommending. It is also what I’m recommending). Because this is a matter of national survival. We have to be resigned to that fact. This is a matter of life and death. The only way to stop this is for us to help ourselves,” he said in a Palace briefing.

He, however, clarified that it would be up to Duterte to evaluate and decide whether a total lockdown would be necessary.

Besides the surge in the number of infected persons, he said Duterte will also assess whether the community quarantine in place is effective in restricting the movement of Filipinos.

Citing reports, he observed that commuters still gather in one area to catch a jeep or bus ride without observing social distancing.

“We really have to asses kung effective yung ginagawa nating ganitong uri ng hindi strict na implementasyon (if our implementation of these not so strict protocols are effective),” he said.

He said Año is looking at replicating South Korea’s version of the lockdown model which also provides massive free testing and treatment.

Asked to clarify what he meant by total lockdown, he said: “A total lockdown would be closing off all establishments. It would mean also walang pasok lahat. Kumbago lahat kayo nasa bahay (there would be no classes in all levels. All of you will stay home).”

Should the proposed total lockdown be implemented, he said the entry of food supply will not be halted.

“Hindi natin hihintuin ang pagpasok ng food supply kasi mahalaga ‘yun e and most likely siguro hindi dapat saraduhan ang mga grocery, ang palengke (We cannot stop the entry of food supply because that’s important and most likely we shouldn’t close groceries, markets),” he said.

Currently, Metro Manila is under a “community quarantine” until April 14 to restrict people outside the National Capital Region from entering the region, unless they are workers, departing passengers, and individuals aboard vehicles carrying cargoes.

On the other hand, Metro Manila residents are also required to observe strict social distancing and avoid mass gatherings.

Uniformed personnel and quarantine personnel were also placed in border points to apprehend motorists who defy the order and check the temperatures of those allowed to travel. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)