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In his announcement on Thursday night (March 12), President Duterte placed the entire Metro Manila under “community quarantine,” as the country continues to see an increase in the number of novel coronavirus cases.
The public didn’t quite anticipate community quarantine, as many were expecting a lockdown. Some wonder whether there is a significant difference between lockdown vs. community quarantine.
While the policy raised some uncertainties, with some solons seeking more clarity, here’s what we know so far:
It’s Under Code Red Sublevel 2
The community quarantine is part of the upgrade of the Code Alert System for Covid-19 to Code Red Sublevel 2. This is in response to the increase in the number of local coronavirus cases in the country, with over 50 patients under supervision at present. Code Alert System is a public health safety measure crucial for determining response initiatives in times of crisis.
The Presidential Communications Operations Office released an explainer about what alert codes mean. Here’s a quick guide to it:
Alert Level 1: White
The government declares this code when there’s an identified case of infection outside the country. The Department of Foreign Affairs and embassies closely coordinate with each other. Authorities exercise stricter monitoring in points of entry.
Alert Level 2 and 3: Blue
In Level 2, one imported case inside the country is identified. In Level 3, the World Health Organization declares Public Health Emergency of International Concern. As a response, the government will activate the interagency task force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. They will also apply stronger surveillance on flights coming from affected countries.
Alert Level 4: Red
The alert system is elevated to this when there’s at least one documented case of community transmission or sustained human-to-human transmission. The government will work on expanding the inter-agency task force to strengthen efforts. They will also engage in selective contract tracing, monitoring of disease trends, and strict enforcement of non-pharmaceutical interventions.
This is declared when there’s at least one local transmission. Public officials will declare Public Health Emergency in response, and strengthen contract tracing.
This is for situations when there’s sustained community transmission. A community quarantine is put in place, suspending work and classes. This is where the Philippines currently stands.
Traveling to and from the Metro Is Limited
This includes land, sea, and air travel. It will be effective from March 15 to April 14. At the time of the announcement, no information on the exact arrangements were disclosed yet. In recent statements from the Palace, however, officials specified some people who will be allowed to cross the NCR’s (National Capital Region) borders, as mentioned in this Manila Bulletin report.
For professionals working in Metro Manila but living in nearby regions, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año recommended granting access as long as they present company identification cards. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) will put up checkpoints in the borders to strengthen the supervision of people coming in and out of the metro.
Other people exempted from the domestic travel restrictions are:
- Government workers who need to fulfill duties outside NCR
- Patients who want to seek medical assistance in Metro Manila
- Cargo delivery personnel
Strict Social Distancing Measures Are Implemented
As cited in the president’s announcement, community quarantine carries stringent social distancing protocols. In healthcare terms, this does not just entail avoiding crowded places or greeting friends with a hug, but more so keeping a one-meter distance at least from other people, especially those who are coughing or sneezing. Tiny droplets spewed from these human activities may contain the virus and can get someone infected when inhaled.
The Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade Industry, and Department of Transportation will be releasing guidelines on social distancing in crowded places, including offices, commercial establishments, and public transport hubs.
Local Quarantines Are Imposed
Included in the President’s announcement is the directive to local government units (LGUs) to exercise community quarantine in their respective municipalities to further control the spread of the virus.
The guidelines, reported by GMA News Online, are stated below:
- Barangay-wide quarantine is necessary when there are at least two confirmed cases of coronavirus coming from different households in the same barangay
- Municipality/city-wide quarantine: at least two confirmed cases of coronavirus coming from different barangays in the same municipality/city
- Province-wide quarantine: at least two confirmed cases of coronavirus coming from different areas in the same province
LGUs that are under community quarantine upon the declaration of a State of Calamity can use their Quick Response Fund to strengthen relief initiatives.
Currently, Cainta is one of the cities under community quarantine. Mayor Kit Nieto placed a lockdown on the region, as there are three positive cases in Barangays San Isidro and San Andres. Two of the patients died yesterday, March 12, Nieto reported on his Facebook page.
Classes and Mass Gatherings Put to a Halt
President Duterte extended the class suspension up to April 12. Students are advised to remain in their respective homes during the quarantine period. The suspension is supposed to be until March 14 only but given the rising number of local cases, it was stretched to a month. Earlier, public officials called on the management of Metro Manila malls not to allow pupils to enter their premises after the initial class suspension announcement, as ABS-CBN News reported here.
Under the community quarantine, mass gatherings, including spontaneous and planned, have been discouraged as well. Prior to the president’s announcement, large public events even outside the metro, such as festivals and concerts, were canceled already because of the outbreak scare. Before the community quarantine, some gatherings have already imposed a “no face mask, no entry” preventive measure.
Government officials are expected to flesh out more details of the community quarantine and set specific guidelines and arrangements in a meeting today, March 13. The World Health Organization (WHO) now considers the novel coronavirus a pandemic. As of writing, the Philippines has 52 confirmed cases, with five fatalities.
Sources: PNA, Manila Bulletin, GMA News Online, Mayor Kit Nieto Facebook Page, ABS-CBN News