Duterte places Luzon under enhanced community quarantine as virus cases rise

President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacañang Palace on March 16. | Karl Norman Alonzo / Presidential Photo

Luzon has been placed on an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Monday, March 16.

“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,” said Duterte in a nationally televised address.

This comes after problems with the community quarantine protocol cropped up on the first day of the workweek, such as failed social distancing due to cramped public vehicles, road congestion, and checkpoint issues.

According to a Palace memo issued over the weekend, 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.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said that food and essential needs will be delivered to houses by local government units (LGUs).

“The respective LGUs will have to create a system where food and essential needs will be delivered to the homes of the communities. In other words, we will not allow a rush to get food and supplies because there will be sufficient food and supply,” he added.

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.

Establishments that provide food and medicine, as well as banks, will be allowed to operate with a skeleton force, meanwhile, malls have already announced their temporary closure until further notice.

As the enhanced community quarantine suspends work, Duterte also urged major companies to release in advance their employees’ 13-month pay or half of their salaries to help them weather disruptions in their livelihood amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Those big enterprises here, maybe you can consider paying the 13th-month pay or just pay them half of their salary if the employees lose their jobs as a way of showing your solidarity to Filipinos at this critical time,” he said.

Duterte also told business owners to close their establishments if the outbreak in the country worsens.

“That’s an order because you will help in propagating the disease instead of helping,” he said.

Different cities in Metro Manila have 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.

As of writing, there are a total of 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, including 12 fatalities.

Senate work suspended
Senate President Vicente Sotto III suspended work at the Senate following Duterte’s declaration of an enhanced community quarantine over the whole Luzon.

“We follow. Senate employees will no longer go to work in the meantime. OSAA (Office of the Sergeant-At-Arms) and security guards will remain in a skeletal number only,” he said Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri confirmed Monday night that he tested positive for COVID-19.

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