President Rodrigo Duterte last night issued sweeping orders to place the entire island of Luzon under “enhanced” community quarantine, tightening measures already in place in a bid to restrict the movement of people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, all classes and school activities will be suspended through April 14, mass gatherings are prohibited, and people have been ordered to remain in self-quarantine, and are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food and other necessities.
All businesses have been ordered to close, except for those involved in food and other necessities, such as public markets, groceries, hospitals, pharmacies, food and drug manufacturing facilities, banks, hospitals, and clinics.
Call centers, many of which are located in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces, will be allowed to remain open, but are required to provide accommodation for their employees by March 18.
Travelers, whether foreigners or Filipino, who wish to leave Luzon for any international port were given 72 hours starting from 12am this morning to leave. Passengers from other countries are allowed entry but will be subjected to quarantine procedures if they are coming from places that have existing travel restrictions.
The movement of cargo, including medical supplies, will continue.
Meanwhile, mass transport services, including buses, jeepneys, and trains, will be suspended. Filipinos can travel using only their own vehicles, and in case they need to buy medicine or food, only one person will be allowed to leave the household.
“The idea here is to keep everybody on home quarantine,” said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles in a press conference last night. “We try not to dwell on the exemptions to the rule. In fact, our mindset here is in case of doubt, stay at home.”
“If you leave your home for these establishments, to buy the necessities, only one person can buy. He can’t bring the entire family,” he added. “We’re hampering people’s movement because we want to stop the virus from spreading.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said people violating the home quarantine can be arrested by the police based on two laws: Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits disobedience to a person in authority; and Republic Act 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
“This will come into play if there is serious resistance or disobedience to our law enforcers,” Año said during the presser. “I plead with everyone to just give your cooperation, and this is something that is temporary and for the good of all of us. The police officers, supported by the Armed Forces, are not the enemy; they are not there to harass us, but to protect us.”
Members of the media will be allowed to travel to any point of Luzon within 72 hours after the enhanced quarantine takes effect. After that, only those accredited by the Presidential Communications Operations Office will be allowed to move around the island.
There have so far been 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, 12 of whom have died. The Department of Health announced last night that a 46-year-old Filipino male patient from Pasay City has recovered from the illness, bringing the total number of recoveries to three. The first two to recovered were both Chinese nationals from Wuhan, where the virus originated. They have since gone back to China.