Today, President Rodrigo Duterte officially announced to the nation the imposition of “Stringent Social Distancing Measures” in the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) for 30 days with a view to containing the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. The President was careful to avoid labeling the decree as a “lockdown” measure because, according to him, his critics are tying the concept to Martial Law. “There is no power struggle here,” he said, adding that the only objective is to protect public interest in this time of a serious coronavirus outbreak.
The President said the country is now officially under Code Red Sublevel 2. Below are the details of the above-mentioned social-distancing measures, as provided to the media by the Department of Transportation and attributed to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
First, the suspension of classes in all levels in Metro Manila is extended until April 12, 2020, with students remaining in their respective homes for the said duration.
Second, mass gatherings, defined as events where the number of people attending could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event, shall be prohibited during the aforesaid period.
Third, community quarantine is imposed in the entire Metro Manila. Local Government Units in other areas are advised to abide by the following guidelines:
* Barangay-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two (2) positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different households in the same barangay;
* Municipality/city-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two (2) positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different barangays in the same municipality/city;
* Province-wide quarantine is advised when there are at least two (2) positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different municipalities, component cities or independent component cities in the same province; and
* LGUs, which have imposed community quarantine in their respective jurisdictions, upon the declaration of a State of Calamity, shall be allowed to access their Quick Response Fund.
Fourth, work in the Executive Branch shall be suspended during the same period, without prejudice to the formation of skeletal workforces by government agencies. The Congress and the Judiciary are encouraged to adopt the same policy. Law enforcement agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, as well as health and emergency frontline services, shall continue in full operation.
Fifth, flexible work arrangements shall likewise be encouraged in the private sector, following guidelines from the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry designed to safeguard the welfare of the workers. All manufacturing, retail and service establishments shall remain in operation during the same period, provided that strict social-distancing measures are observed.
Sixth, mass public transports, such as the Light Rail Transit, the Metro Rail Transit and the Philippine National Railways, shall continue in operation, following guidelines by the Department of Transportation intended to ensure social distancing.
Seventh, land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila shall be suspended beginning March 15 (00:00H) until April 14 (23:59H).
The President also pointed out that the above measures are “subject to review, day to day,” depending on the development of the coronavirus situation.
As you may have deduced after reading the measures, some points beg more questions than they provide answers. For this reason, “the DOTr road sector will be meeting with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Health tomorrow (March 13) to define the implementation guidelines,” DOTr communications and commuter affairs head Goddes Hope Oliveros-Libiran revealed afterward.
“While a total and absolute lockdown is considered by some as a valid preventive measure, current circumstances do not warrant such an extreme course of action,” Panelo is quoted by the text forwarded to us as saying.
So…what really happens now? We’re not 100% sure ourselves, but we would advise restricting movement unless absolutely necessary. If your company allows you to work from home, take advantage of it and stay put. There’s no need to put yourself and your loved ones at risk.
See you all online for now.