Then:PH COVID19 Ground Zero March6,2020 1st Case; Now:57 Million Filipinos in Luzon Lockdown

Duterte not keen on banning travel to China amid coronavirus scare-CNN Jan.29,2020

Philippines records its first local case of coronavirus-CNN March 6,2020

Philippines ignored neighbors' lessons on how to tackle coronavirus-Nikkei Mar.18,2020

Duterte orders Luzon-wide 'enhanced community quarantine'-MSN News Mar 17,2020

Coronavirus: Philippines quarantines island of 57 million people-Aljazeera Mar.17,2020

Duterte not keen on banning travel to China amid coronavirus scare

The President says banning travel to China will be difficult since they "continue to respect the freedom flights that we enjoy."

By Janine Peralta, CNN Philippines

Published Jan 29, 2020 7:13:46 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte maintained on Wednesday that banning travel between the country and China will not be easy, despite the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that originated in the East Asian nation.

"Mahirap 'yang ano, sabihin mong [It is hard to say that] you suspend everything because they are not also suspending theirs and they continue to respect the freedom flights that we enjoy," Duterte told reporters in an ambush interview.

However, he said the government is ready to repatriate Filipinos in Wuhan — the Chinese city which sits at the center of the outbreak — should they seek to come home to the Philippines.

"We are always conscious of our citizens [and] their health and if they are going home, we are ready to ferry them back to the Philippines but all precautions must be in place," he added.

The Foreign Affairs Department earlier said two charter planes are on standby to fetch Filipinos in Wuhan once they get the go signal from Chinese officials.

Duterte added that he will leave the precautionary measures to the proper authorities.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque was also reluctant to recommend banning Chinese nationals from entering the country.

Duque said they are looking at the ban as an option but he raised that China might question why the Philippines is not imposing the same restriction on other countries.

"If we do this, then the concerned country — China in this case ​—​​​​​​ might question why we're not doing the same for other countries that have reported confirmed cases of novel coronavirus," said Duque during a question hour at the House of Representatives.

The secretary maintained that the Department of Health has intensified surveillance on travelers who may have symptoms of the virus. He said they are now strictly monitoring not just visitors from Wuhan but from the entire Hubei province, where the city is located.

"As I have said, we have scaled up, we have leveled up border surveillance. Our quarantine officers are well equipped," he added.


Philippines records its first local case of coronavirus

By Lara Tan, CNN Philippines

Published Mar 6, 2020 12:17:30 PM

A Filipino man who has not traveled out of the country recently has tested positive for coronavirus, health officials said on Friday. He is one of two new cases of coronavirus disease or COVID-19 in the country.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the 62-year-old Filipino who contracted the disease has no known travel to any country with confirmed coronavirus cases, but he regularly visited a Muslim prayer hall in Barangay Greenhills, San Juan City.

"It can be considered as a local case... The absence of travel is a clear indication that this is a local case," he said in a media briefing.

Duque was quick to clarify that the new local case cannot be considered the start of the community-based spread of coronavirus in the country.

"There is no transmission to speak of as of yet because we only have one. We're doing contact tracing to establish whether or not there are other cases or clustering of cases. But now it's premature to say there is a local transmission," he said.

However, the World Health Organization considers a case local transmission when the source of infection is "within the reporting location," in this case, the Philippines.

WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe in a briefing earlier said, "even the fifth case is a local transmission." He stressed that there is no widespread transmission since what the Philippines has now are two "isolated cases in two different localities in Metro Manila.''

But he later clarified that even the travel history of the patient needs to be further investigated before they could say it is a local transmission.

"It's clear that there is no at this point known travel history but it's very early in the investigation. The travel history, the contacts need to be investigated and followed up," Abeyasinghe told CNN Philippines' News Night.

He added that they need to confirm how and where the patient got the infection.

"It may be a local case but we have no clear evidence at this point of time so in any epidemiological investigation there is a time you are not clear where the infection was actually acquired and how," he added.

However, Abeyasinghe also admitted that the investigation could lead to a dead end.

"We are well aware that the nature of this disease is that many people could be mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic and so they may not seek treatment but they could actually serve as points of infection to others so the investigation may even end up being inconclusive because we may not be able to find out how this person got infected," said Abeyasinghe.

Duque said the man considered to be the fifth confirmed case in the country had hypertension and diabetes mellitus. He started coughing on February 25 and went to Cardinal Santos Medical Center on March 1. He was then admitted and diagnosed with severe pneumonia. DOH confirmed he was infected with coronavirus on March 5.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergerie said a relative who has been in close contact with the man has shown flu-like symptoms. She said the relative was quarantined in a hospital and tested for coronavirus.

The WHO said there is no need to close down the unnamed Muslim prayer hall over one confirmed case, but San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora on Friday ordered the immediate disinfection and temporary closure of the place.

Duque urged those who visited the worship area who have fever or respiratory symptoms to call the DOH hotline at (02)8-651-7800.

Zamora added that the confirmed case was not from San Juan but he was confined in the city's Cardinal Santos Medical Center and diagnosed with severe pneumonia. The man was transferred to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine after testing positive for the virus on March 5.

Meanwhile, the second new case of COVID-19 in the country is a 48-year-old Filipino man who visited Tokyo, Japan. Duque said he returned to the Philippines on February 25 and started having chills and fever on March 3. He tested positive on March 5. Duque said he is in stable condition.

The two patients - one from Metro Manila and the other a resident of a town near the metropolis - are both confined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The DOH is tracking down the people the two Filipinos came in contact with. Vergerie said as of Friday afternoon, the agency has tracked down 29 people who came in contact with the two confirmed cases.

"Samples have already been collected from close contacts. DOH is also in close coordination with the concerned local government units for concerted action on identifying persons who had interaction with the confirmed cases," Duque said.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines now stands at 5, with one death. The other two cases have recovered and returned to their hometown in China.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 3,383 people — the vast majority in mainland China. There are now over 98,000 global cases, with infections in at least 88 countries and territories. Nearly 17,500 cases have been confirmed outside of mainland China.

Fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and trouble breathing are some of the most common symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Some also experience diarrhea. Health officials remind the public to observe proper handwashing and maintain social distancing.


Philippines ignored neighbors' lessons on how to tackle coronavirus

Manila lockdown comes far too late after Duterte tried to placate China

Rodrigo Duterte speaks during an Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacanang presidential palace on Mar. 16: the Philippine president has been trying to please China.  

The Philippine government has taken drastic action. In response to the threat of a coronavirus epidemic outbreak, it has placed the country's capital under a de facto lockdown or, as President Rodrigo Duterte euphemistically said, "enhanced community quarantine."


Duterte orders Luzon-wide 'enhanced community quarantine'



President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday announced a lockdown of entire Luzon to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Malacañang said.

“PRRD [Duterte] just announced an enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a message to reporters.

Based on the guidelines released by the Palace last Saturday, the government may implement an enhanced community quarantine.

Under this condition, strict home quarantine will be implemented in all households, transportation will be suspended, provision for food and essential health services will be regulated and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures will be heightened.

The Philippines has so far recorded 140 COVID-19 cases, including 12 deaths, according to the Department of Health. --KBK, GMA News

Photos: Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak


Coronavirus: Philippines quarantines island of 57 million people

For daily wage earners, no work means no pay 'so no choice' and social distancing is impossible, critics say.

by Ana P Santos17 Mar 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has put the entire Philippine island of Luzon under an "enhanced community quarantine" until April 12 to stop the spread of coronavirus infections.

In a televised public address on Monday, Duterte said public movement would be restricted to only buying food, medicine and other essential items necessary for survival.

"Only establishments that provide services like food and medicine shall be open," said Duterte.

The president instructed the labour and social welfare departments to implement measures that would alleviate the burden of the lockdown on small business and wage workers. He also urged businesses to release the mandatory 13th-month pay to their employees.

According to the health department's latest figures, there are 142 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines and 12 deaths.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier explained that, under an enhanced community quarantine, "strict home quarantine shall be implemented in all households, transportation shall be suspended, provision of food and essential services shall be regulated, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures will be implemented".

Effectively a lockdown of the country's largest and most populous island, the measures affect about 57 million people. 

"We already have an enhanced community quarantine which we started two days ago [over Manila], we are just expanding it to the entire Luzon," said Panelo.

The move is the most aggressive among Asian countries struggling to cope with the COVID-19 disease, which has already infected more than 164,000 people, killed at least 6,500, and crippled public health systems worldwide. 

Checkpoints became chokepoints

The announcement of the lockdown came after a failure to implement social distancing measures to stave off the spread of coronavirus.

Duterte had announced a "community quarantine" starting midnight of March 15, cutting off domestic air, land and sea access to the capital megacity of Manila in an effort to slow the spread. Classes and work for non-essential services were suspended, and an estimated 12 million residents were asked to stay at home. 

The measure made Arnold Vega's morning commute look like a mass exodus. 

Vega pushed and jostled his way through a throng of passengers to get on a public utility vehicle and cross the city border that separates his suburb of Bulacan from the mega-metropolis of Manila where he works as a nurse in a health clinic. 

Police and military personnel stationed at checkpoints took each person's temperature, pointing thermal scanners at foreheads, ready to separate those who showed any signs of fever. Many were not wearing adequate protective gear themselves. Passengers also had to show proof that they worked in Manila by showing either a company ID or a certificate of employment. 

Public utility vehicles operated at half capacity as strict social distancing required passengers to sit one seat apart. Some drivers asked passengers to pay twice their fare to make up for the unoccupied seat. 

It took Vega four hours to get to work. "It was total chaos."

Earlier on Monday, several malls across the various districts of Manila announced their closure for one month. Mayors met with mall owners to discuss ways to alleviate the impact of closures on employees who are mostly contractual daily wage earners.

Other cities declared a state of calamity or went into their own version of lockdown.

Who will take care of the health workers?

Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers, lambasted the government's attempt at quarantine. "What we need is mass testing, more trained healthcare workers, and an increased health budget." 

The Duterte administration slashed the 2020 health budget by $197m but committed an additional $44.5m to buy protective gear for healthcare workers. 

"Where is that promised budget? Even as COVID-19 cases keep climbing, our healthcare workers continue to work without proper protective gear. Who will take care of everyone else if health workers get sick?" 

According to Mendoza, there are about 46 healthcare workers who have coronavirus symptoms and are currently being monitored.

Safety nets

Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the lef-wing alliance Bagong Alyangsang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance), said the government must think of ways to protect low-income daily wage earners who will be hit hardest by the lockdown.

"Social distancing and work from home is impossible for daily wage earners. For them, it is no work, no pay so no choice. They will risk getting COVID-19 to keep their jobs," he added.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros estimated at least 650,000 Filipino households would become the "new poor" in Metro Manila alone because of the economic implications of the lockdown and moved for a $250 payment for those affected by the financial whiplash.

"The president's directive for an 'enhanced community quarantine' in Luzon ... should be implemented as a public health measure that takes into account the welfare of the most vulnerable," said Hontiveros in a statement. 

Some of the provisions of the quarantine measures made citizens nervous as the threat of arrest for those in violation of the lockdown were reminiscent of martial law. The Philippines has a history of martial law in the 1970s under the Marcos dictatorship and alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration. 

But security analyst Jose Antonio Custodio did not agree. "It's far from martial law. It's more like a massive humanitarian crisis response that leaves much to be desired due to poor planning and knee-jerk reactions." 


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