President Rodrigo Duterte’s recorded message aired around 7:30pm tonight. It was another arduous wait for the public who have been told to expect his message at 4pm. In between the wait, people who are able flocked the groceries before it closed and before the 8pm curfew in most cities as another round of panic-buying ensued.
Duterte placed Luzon under enhanced community quarantine from March 17 to April 12. This came after two days of implementation of the community quarantine and the first day, March 16, that is a weekday and workday that proved ‘social distancing’ impossible and the checks at the border almost impracticable.
The enhanced community quarantine order will start at 12 midnight, or less than five hours from the declaration.
Duterte and other government officials had initially referred to the community quarantine as lockdown, but said they would rather not use the term and because people are still allowed to leave their homes. The enhanced community quarantine was also sometimes interchangeably referred to as total lockdown before it was ordered implemented (or lockdown even at this press con).
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles again led the press con of Duterte’s cabinet to give guidelines on the new order and to answer the questions of the media.
Under the enhanced community quarantine, a strict home quarantine will be observed. General rule is to stay at home.
Office work will be suspended. Work from home arrangement are recommended except for the police, military and emergency frontliners. Businesses will adopt a skeletal workforce. BPOs and export-related industries will continue to operate subject to restrictions such as implementing social distancing and providing quarters to their workers to limit movement.
Mass gatherings will be prohibited.
Mass transport—trains, jeeps and buses—will be suspended. Transport for the exempted persons will be allowed.
Banks and money remittance centers will continue as part of basic necessities. Person to transact or receive money will be allowed to travel outside their homes.
Classes will continue to be suspended until April 14. Online classes can still continue to be conducted.
POGO operations were not discussed among those exempted, so with the rule ‘in case of doubt, no,’ then they must be closed during this declaration.
Manufacturers of health-related products, hygiene products, medical supplies will also be continued to operate.
Nograles gave a general rule regarding questions on the guidelines, “In case of doubt, no.” Also applicable, “in case of doubt, stay at home.”
Nograles said the decision to impose the step-up to enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon island is because of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, rising cases of COVID-19 in the country, and the local government units (LGUs) that started declaring their own quarantine.
If the situation escalates, steps beyond the enhanced community quarantine, if any is needed, will be discussed by the Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
The period of enhanced community quarantine may also be shortened, or lengthened, depending on the assessment of the IATF.
Cases to be filed for those who violate the order
Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra enumerated laws applicable to the enhanced community quarantine.
Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code on Resistance or Disobedience to Person in Authority, arresto mayor and ; if committed with acts of violence, charged with direct assault
Any violation under Republic Act 11332 Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and the provision that is penelized is that one for non-cooperation. Fine of note more than P50,000 and imprisonment of not more than six months.
Quarantine Act has same punishments as Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases
Strict home quarantine supersedes curfew hours implemented by the LGUs.
Nograles said, “in the words of DILG Sec. Eduardo Año, it’s a 24-hour curfew.”
There is gun ban in the essence that people are not allowed to go out of their homes. If they go out of their homes for ‘essential travel’ and carrying firearms, the rule of the law will apply. If they don’t have permit to carry, then they can’t carry a gun.
Travel out of the country allowed within 72 hours of new order
Outbound passengers intended to depart from the country in any international airport of Luzon will be allowed to leave the country within 72 hours of the effectivity. No one will be allowed to leave the country from Luzon after 72 hours
Inbound passengers in transit – Filipinos, and permanent visa holders – shall be allowed entry but will undergo 14 days of quarantine.
Checkpoint at the border of the regions will change configuration as the whole mainland Luzon is now the restricted area. There will still be checkpoints and there will be posting at strategic areas, roving patrols. LGUs will help implement the enhanced community quarantine.
Testing and testing kits and other health concerns
As of last night, two more positive cases of COVID-19 are added, bringing the number to 142.
Department of Health (DOH) Francisco Duque III was asked how many have been tested in all in the country. He replied almost a 1,000.
Duque said the positive cases are high against all tested, because the testing capacity is still low.
The secretary shared that South Korea donations of 500 testing kits have arrived, as well as 2,000 from China. China and South Korea will also donate 10,000 testing kits each by next week.
Just before Duterte’s recorded message was aired, Senator Miguel Zubiri tested positive for COVID-19. Duque he will get a second test after 10 days to see if the virus is gone. He was not able to clarify if all those tested gets two tests.
Some health cards were reported to have said pandemic is not covered. Duque said he will look into the policies of HMOs on this and see if there is opening for additional protection. PhilHealth was approved P420 million to respond to the pandemic, and will allocate P 14,000 each for those affected or the P30,000 to P 32,000 pneumonia package depending on severity and P18,000 for testing.
How can a sick person go to the hospital without public transport? Duque said we have sufficient ambulance vehicles to respond.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said those with local transmission must be ready for respirators and Duque said we have enough.
Estimated undetected cases due to shortage of test kits depends on the modelling that can be used. If based on the WHO model of ‘every one infection can infect 2-4 others,’ at the reproduction rate of 2, cases all over the country over the next five months could reach 75,000 and then higher if they will base on the higher reproduction. Using the world mortality rate of 3.4 to 3.6% or the 12 deaths in the Philippines as a basis, Duque said there could have been 300 to 400 cases and 160 or more have not been discovered.
Buying food while on quarantine at home
Only one person can leave and buy goods needed for the household. Private transport may also be used to buy goods, but always a reminder only for ‘essential travel.’
Open establishments include groceries and pharmacies. Restaurants only will only be for delivery ideally with the food establishment delivering. Food delivery will be allowed.
Año also answered a question from media that was said was posted online about how the poor who buys on retail, or tingi-tingi, would need to buy more times or should they have their retail buys ‘bumili ng toyo o suka.’ Año said they should buy for a week. He also quipped, “ito ang pagkakataon na ‘wag magpilosopo.”
Food assistance to poor families, poor situation
Nograles said that food assistance will be given to poorest families and communities.
As to what type of assistance will be given depends on the LGUs. Luzon is under state of calamity and respective LGUs can also declare state of calamity so they can tap their calamity fund and quick response funds from which they will fund the food assistance to the poor. It would be incumbent upon the LGU to be first responders to their constituents. LGU will determine the food packs and food assistance and the Department of Social Welfare and Development will augment the food assistance of the LGU.
Those with means, or ‘yung maykaya’, will have to provide their own means.
Cases of homeless people is relegated to the LGU.
Confirmed cases in informal settlers where isolation is not possible will be addressed by barangay isolation units and barangay health response teams.
Guevarra said about concerns and questions if we are headed to martial law, “The answer to that question is a resounding no. Although public safety requires it, there is no rebellion, there is no invasion. Our enemy here is not a person. Please be assured that we are not headed towards martial law.”