Duterte suspends land, air, sea travel: Metro Manila on ‘lockdown’
(The Freeman) - March 13, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Metro Manila on a ‘lockdown’ for one month due to the highly contagious coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Duterte made the announcement last night in his address to the nation after the World Health Organization characterized the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, meaning it is spreading in several regions through local transmissions.

The president said Metro Manila would be closed to land, air, and sea travel from March 15. The suspension of travel in and out of the National Capital Region will be until April 14, subject to daily assessment. He also announced that community quarantine shall be imposed on all of Metro Manila.

Mass transportation within Metro Manila like the Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit will continue, although the Department of Transportation was directed to make sure that social distancing guidelines are followed.

"Nandiyan na yan, it's a serious one. It is true... huwag ninyong maliitin. Do not minimize it but do not kill yourself with worry because government is doing everything possible to make it controllable," Duterte said.

No Martial Law

He said the military and the police may be called to help enforce the travel restrictions and other measures. But he was quick to allay fears that he was declaring a martial law.

"Hindi ito martial law. This is not a martial law, it is not even something extraordinary," Duterte said.

Other measures that the president announced last night include the extension of the suspension of classes in Metro Manila until April 12, 2020. The students, however, will be required to complete their class requirements even if formal classes have been suspended. Duterte also said that planned or spontaneous mass gatherings are banned.

He said that work in the executive department shall be suspended during this period without prejudice to the formation of skeletal workforces. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was told to encourage "flexible work arrangements" in the private sector.

Pandemic

Meanwhile, the country’s confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to pick up yesterday after the Department of Health tallied three new infections, raising the total to 52.

The WHO has already characterized the new coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. A vast majority of confirmed infections in the Philippines were only detected in the last six days after a month-long lull in cases.

There are concerns that the figure may be bigger due to the country’s very limited testing program.

Health authorities on Thursday reported five deaths due to the new coronavirus. (see separate story)

The number of cases across the world has risen to more than 124,000 in more than 100 countries and territories with over 4,500 deaths. While situation in China has steadied, virus hotspots have emerged elsewhere: South Korea, Italy and Iran.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

“We're deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” he added.

Global health experts are currently scrambling to develop a vaccine on the new pathogen of coronavirus, a family of viruses that causes respiratory infections typically characterized by cough and colds.

What is a pandemic?

"Pandemic" itself is a loosely defined term, but can "can cause unreasonable fear" as Tedros recognized on his statement. That, and the backlash WHO suffered in the past for hastily making such declarations on diseases that appeared easily contained like H1N1 swine flu, prompted the multilateral agency to be more careful on assessing the spread of coronavirus.

A turning point for WHO was a supposed "inaction" on many jurisdictions to control the outbreak. "WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," Tedros said.

Formally, what a pandemic designation does is to call for swift and stronger coordination among countries and stop the spread of infection. It also calls on governments to have proper and effective risk communication plan before, after and during the pandemic. FPL  Philippine Star News Service (FREEMAN)

COVID-19 LOCKDOWN METRO MANILA
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