MANILA police deployed 1,600 cops and set up 56 checkpoints in the capital and nearby cities to monitor the movement of people after President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered a lockdown to contain a novel coronavirus outbreak in the metro.
Checkpoints were set up in the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Valenzuela, Muntinlupa, Las Piñas, Parañaque, Marikina and Pasig, Brigadier General Debold M. Sinas, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), told a news briefing on Sunday.
The Department of Health reported 29 more COVID-19 infections yesterday, bringing the total to 140. Three more patients died, raising the number of deaths to 11, it said in an e-mailed statement. Five have recovered, it added.
Mr. Sinas said every checkpoint will be equipped with at least one thermal scanner. The police will buy more to add to the 25 pieces they have now, he added.
Mr. Sinas said the checkpoint locations would be refined later to make them more efficient.
A nine-hour curfew starting at 8 p.m. on March 15 was to be enforced in Manila, the capital and nearby cities as part of a one-month lock down in Metro Manila that also banned land, domestic air and sea travels to and from the region. People leaving Metro Manila must be checked for signs of infection such as fever and other respiratory symptoms at exit checkpoints. A certification will then be issued by health authorities to the traveler, who must undergo a 14-day home-based quarantine, according to a memo issued by the presidential palace on Saturday.
Seventeen mayors of Metro Manila also issued a separate order urging mall operators to shut down for a month to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019, Juan City Mayor Francisco Javier M. Zamora said at the weekend.
Supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants with home deliveries, banks and outlets that offer health services will be allowed to operate.
Also yesterday, the presidential palace said the government would buy more COVID-19 test kits amid rising cases of infection.
In a joint statement, the palace and Science and Technology department said funds would be given to DoH and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, which is making a local version of the test kits.
The presidential memo at the weekend extended class suspensions until April 15 and detailed quarantine and social distancing measures for the metro.
Under the rules, mass gatherings including movie screenings, concerts, sporting events and other entertainment activities, community assemblies and nonessential company gatherings will be banned.
Religious gatherings and essential company meetings are allowed as long as people maintain a one-meter distance from each other, according to a copy of the memo signed by Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea.
A community quarantine will be imposed on the entire Metro Manila. Local governments must follow either general and enhanced community quarantines imposed by the Department of Health and Interior and Local Government department.
Under a general quarantine, the movement of people will be limited to accessing basic goods and work, while police and quarantine officers will be present at border points.
Police will restrict the nonessential entry and exit of people to and from Metro Manila, especially people who are at high risk of being infected such as senior citizens and pregnant women.
Health workers, authorized government officials, those traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons and people on their way to the airport for travel overseas will be exempted from the restrictions. People providing basic services and public utilities and essential skeletal workforce also won’t be covered.
Under an enhanced quarantine, home quarantine will be enforced in all households, transportation will be suspended and provision of food and health services will be regulated.
The memo does not say what could bring about an enhanced quarantine.
Mr. Duterte on Thursday ordered the lockdown and suspended work in the Executive branch for a month. The House of Representatives also suspended work and will adopt a rotating skeletal manpower during the period.
Companies should allow work-from-home and other flexible arrangements to prevent the spread of the virus, he said. Government agencies can form “skeletal workforces” to ensure unimpeded delivery of services, Mr. Duterte said.
The President made the announcement in a televised speech after meeting with an inter-agency task force against the contagion that has killed more than 5,000 people and sickened about 140,000 more worldwide, mostly in China.
Duterte said the highest alert level — code red sublevel 2 — was up, which means there have been community transmissions and increased infection cases beyond the government’s responding capacity. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez