Metro Manila in “Community Quarantine” Due to COVID-19

By Henrylito D. Tacio

“For Manila, we don’t want to use that because we fear lockdown, but it’s a lockdown.  There is no struggle of power here.  It’s just a matter of protecting and defending you from Covid-19.” – President Rodrigo R. Duterte

“To my countrymen, do not panic.  Please do not be stressed to the point that you may not be able to do what you want to do.  You can still do so, but we will have restrictions.  There will be conditions because there is a crisis.”

With those words, spoken in a nationally televised address last March 12, President Rodrigo R. Duterte placed Metro Manila on a 30-day “community quarantine” from March 15 to April 14 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic which has created havoc around the globe.

“This crisis is very, very clear,” he pointed out.  “Covid-19 is spreading throughout (the world), including the Philippines.  “It’s a serious one.  Do not belittle it.  Do not minimize it, but do not kill yourself with worry…  If you do not cooperate, the problem would start and it would start with you and it will end with you.”

Duterte approved the resolution submitted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, which is composed of eight government agencies, namely: Department of Health (DOH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Based on the said the resolution, which has raised the code alert system for Covid-19 public health event to Code Red Sublevel 2, Metro Manila was imposed on a community quarantine “in the entirety” of the metropolis.  It advised local government units (LGUs) in other areas “to abide” on the guidelines “in imposing localized community quarantine in their respective jurisdictions.”

The guidelines were as follows:

  • A barangay-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two positive Covid-19 cases belonging in different households in the same barangay;
  • A municipality-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two positive Covid-19 cases belong to different barangays in the same municipality; and
  • A province-wide quarantine is advised when there are at lest two positive Covid-19 cases belonging to different municipalities, component cities or independent component cities in the same province.

According to the resolution, LGUs which have imposed community quarantine in their respective jurisdictions, “upon the declaration of a State of Calamity,” are allowed to access their Quick Response Fund.

The resolution also prohibited mass gathering during the one-month “lockdown” (as some media reports call it).  Mass gathering is defined as “a planned or spontaneous event where the number of people attending could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event.”

Work in the executive branch is also suspended during the said period, “without prejudice to the formation of skeletal workforces by government agencies in order to maintain the unimpeded delivery of services to the public.”

However, those who are front liners in health and emergency services are exempted so that they can continue their task “in full operation.”  In like manner, the legislative branch and the judiciary are “encouraged to adopt the same policy.”

In the private sector, flexible work arrangements are encouraged.  Two departments – DOLE and Department of Trade and Industry – will issue guidelines to safeguard the welfare of the workers.

To keep the economy going, “all manufacturing, retail, and service establishments are advised to remain in operation during the said period,” the resolution stated.  As a precaution, “strict social distancing measures are required to be observed by their respective managements.”

In addition, mass public transports – Light Rail Transits, the Metro Rail Transit, and the Philippine National Railways – are expected to remain in operation during the one-month community quarantine.  Again, a social distancing in public transports, whose guidelines will be issued by DOTr, will be observed.

Although classes in all levels in Metro Manila are suspended until April 12, “students shall continue to fulfil their educational requirements during the said period.” It is up the concerned LGUs, with supervision from DILG, to implement measures “to ensure that students remain in their homes during the duration.”

A report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer said the Philippine National Police (PNP) “will be using checkpoints to enforce the community quarantine on Metro Manila.”

The national paper quoted Maj. Gen. Benigno Durana, Jr., head of the Directorate for Police Community Relations and acting PNP spokesperson through text, as saying: “Community quarantine will be enforced by the PNP through checkpoints and other lawful means in coordination with the LGUs starting from barangays and other agencies like the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines).”

Health experts advised those who are in community quarantine to follow the guidelines.  As former undersecretary of health Dr. Teodoro Herbosa puts it: “China did a lockdown on Wuhan (the epicentre of Covid-19) and the epidemiological curve flattened.  More may have died without.  Italy locked down, their curve will flatten and they would prevent deaths.  Metro Manila is now on community quarantine, a ‘soft lockdown.’ I’m hoping people cooperate and save lives.”

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