There are now 552 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Tuesday, March 24.
It also reported two additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 35. Meanwhile, the number of recoveries is now at 20.
According to health authorities, they are expecting the number of confirmed cases in the country to increase as more people suspected of contracting the disease get tested using the 100,000 test kits from donor countries China, South Korea and Brunei.
However, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III noted that mass testing cannot be done in the Philippines as its ill-equipped healthcare system lacks the capabilities to do so.
The second week of Luzon’s enhanced community quarantine opened with President Rodrigo Duterte asking the Congress “for a limited period and subject to restrictions” powers that are necessary for dealing with the current health situation in the country.
Last week, he signed Proclamation 929, which declares a state of calamity for a period of six months unless lifted earlier extended “as circumstances may warrant.”
The declaration enjoins all government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to render full assistance in combating the spread of the disease.
“All government agencies and LGUs are enjoined to render full assistance to and cooperation with each other and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate disaster response aid and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19,” stated Duterte’s proclamation.
His declaration also directs law enforcement agencies, with the support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, “to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order.”
The president also placed Luzon on an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of virus in the country.
“I have come to the conclusion that stricter measures are necessary. For this reason, pursuant to my powers as President under the constitution and RA 11332, I am placing the entire mainland of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine until April 12, 2020,” he said in a nationally televised address on March 16.
An enhanced community quarantine suspends mass public transport, and land, air, and sea travel. It also implements a strict home quarantine for every household, regulates provisions for food and essential health services, and heightens the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures.
Duterte urged the public once again to stay inside their homes.
“Everyone will stay at home, leaving their houses only to buy food, medicine, and other things necessary for survival,” he said.
Private establishments providing basic necessities, such as those related to food and medicine production, are allowed to operate with skeleton force. Among those businesses include public markets, supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drugstores, food preparation and delivery services, water-refilling stations, and banks.
Malls, meanwhile, have already announced their temporary closure until further notice.
Different cities in Metro Manila have also implemented a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the quarantine period — among them are Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Muntinlupa, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City, San Juan, and Taguig.