By Azer Parrocha
MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night raised the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) alert system to Code Red sublevel 2 as the number of infected persons in the Philippines climbed to 52.
“The Code Alert System for the Covid-19 public health event is hereby raised to Code Red sublevel-2,” Duterte said, reading from the resolution adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases at Malacañang Palace.
He said he would convert the resolution into an executive order to ensure that it will be strictly followed.
Among the resolution’s recommendations is that “community quarantine” will be imposed in the entirety of Metro Manila, he said.
He admitted that the term community quarantine refers to a “lockdown” but clarified that it had nothing to do with military or police power.
“Ayaw lang nilang sabihin but it’s a lockdown. There is no struggle of power here. Walang away dito, walang giyera (There’s no conflict, there’s no war). It’s just a matter of protecting and defending you from Covid-19. That’s about it. It has nothing to do with the power of the military or the power of the police nor my power or these guys beside me. It’s just an issue of protecting public interest and public health,” he said.
Duterte also clarified that the community quarantine should not be compared to martial law.
“Hindi ito (It’s not) martial law. It’s not even extraordinary. What is sought to be solved here is again walang iba (nothing else) except to fight the virus,” he said.
He said local government units (LGUs) in other areas are advised to abide by these guidelines in imposing localized community quarantine in their respective jurisdictions:
* A barangay-wide quarantine is advised when there at least two positive Covid-19 cases belonging to different households in the same barangay;
* A municipality/city-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two positive Covid-19 cases belonging to different barangays in the same municipality/city; and
* A province-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two positive Covid-19 cases belonging to different component cities or independent component cities in the same province.
Education and work
He said there will also be extension of the suspension of classes in all levels in Metro Manila until April 12, 2020 provided students continue to fulfil their education requirements.
Mass gatherings will be prohibited, he noted.
He said work in the Executive Branch will be suspended, however, it would continue working under a skeletal workforce in order to maintain the unimpeded delivery of services to the public.
Health and emergency frontline services will continue in full operation, he said.
The legislative branch and the judiciary will be encouraged to adopt the same policy, he added.
He also encouraged the private sector to offer “flexible work arrangements.”
The Departments of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Trade and Investment (DTI) will issue guidelines to safeguard the welfare of workers, he said.
All manufacturing, retail, and service establishments are advised to remain in operation during said period provided they observe strict social distancing measures, he added.
Transport and travel
The Light Rail Transits, Metro Rail Transit, and Philippine National Railway will continue in operation as long as the Department of Transport (DOTr) issues guidelines to ensure social distancing, he said.
Duterte said land, domestic air, and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila shall be suspended beginning March 15, 2020 and will end on April 14 2020 “subject to the daily review by the inter-agency task force.”
He added that the measures will be subject to close monitoring, and reassessment after the expiration of 7 days from the issuance of the resolution.
As for foreign travels, he said overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) will be allowed to travel to mainland China, except to Hubei Province, upon execution of a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved.
There will also be a health advisory pamphlet handed out to the OFWs upon departure, he said.
Duterte said entry travel restrictions will be imposed upon those traveling from countries with localized Covid-19 transmissions, except for Filipino citizens including their foreign spouse and children, if any, holders of Permanent Resident Visa, and holders of 9(e) Diplomat Visas issued by the government.
After reading the contents of the resolution, he sought for patience from the public in following the resolution’s contents.
“Konting pasensiya lang (I’m seeking for a little patience). It’s for your own good. Let’s help each other at this time of our life because everything is placed in jeopardy,” he said.
He also asked the public to avoid panicking, stressing that daily activities could still be carried out but only with “restrictions.”
“Sa mga kababayan ko, kayo, ako (To my countrymen, you, me) do not panic. ‘Wag kayo masyado mai-stress na parang di mo na magawa ang gusto mong gawin. Puwede pa rin pero may restrictions tayo. May mga kundisyon dahil nga sa crisis (Do not be too stressed that it’s as if you’re not allowed to do what you want to do. You still can but there are restrictions. We have these conditions because there’s a crisis),” he said.
He advised them to stay healthy by eating the right food, taking vitamins, and observing protocols being suggested by government.
“Do not minimize it but do not kill yourself with worry because government is doing everything possible to make it controllable,” he said.
Help from China
Meanwhile, Duterte bared that Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed willingness to help the Philippines in containing the spread of the infectious disease.
“President Xi Jinping for all of his goodness to us wrote me a letter and said that he is willing to help, all we have to do is to ask. Ako ang tingin ko (What I think), maybe there will be a time, if things deteriorate, that I have to call on China to help. He said they have managed the crisis very well in his country and he is very much willing to help,” he said.
He thanked the Chinese government for their “consoling words.”
“I hope it would not reach that point, but maybe we would need your help,” he said.
The Philippines is now under a state of public health emergency after the health department reported the first known local transmission. With more than 100 countries affected by Covid-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a “controllable” pandemic which means a worldwide spread of a new disease.
The Covid-19 outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed over 4,600 people and infected over 120,000 worldwide. (PNA)