Forty-one (41) local government units (LGUs) and two regions have decided to follow the example of Metro Manila by placing themselves under community quarantine in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said.
He initially identified 17 LGUs as having imposed community quarantine. These were the provinces of Oriental Mindoro, Bohol, Cebu, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo and Batanes, while others were the cities of Puerto Princesa, Iloilo, Ormoc, Davao, Zamboanga, and Borongan and the towns of El Nido and Coron, both in Palawan; Nasipit in Agusan del Sur, and Siargao Island.
However, 24 other LGUs followed suit, as well as the Cordillera Administrative Region and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Año said more areas are also expected to impose a community quarantine, which is important to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“Imagine a person who is not aware he has coronavirus, freely roaming. He is going to infect four persons in one area and another four in another area, and another four in a different place,” he said in a phone interview.
“The elderly and those with health issues are vulnerable…Good for you if you are strong but imagine the elderly, the pregnant and those with health issues you are going to infect…I’m sure three percent of them will die and five percent of them will be in the hospital in serious condition,” he added.
Año said the public should not dismiss the threat of Covid-19. He said members of the media should also take preventive measures against the virus in their fieldwork.
“Some people may say ‘I’m not going to be infected or I’ll recover because I have no (health problems)’. But have pity on your grandfather, your grandmother (who you may infect). This thing is very serious,” said Año.
Health workers and security forces, according to him, should also be careful. If they are infected, “who is going to attend to us?” he added. “This is what’s happening in Italy, their armed forces and police were also hit (by the virus).”
Under the guidelines set by the Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, a province will be under community quarantine if there are two cities or towns under it that are affected by Covid-19.
Also, a city or a town will be under community quarantine if there are two cases of COVID-19 in two of its barangays.
On whether the number of Covid-19 cases is already troubling, Año said: “Growth is exponential. From 64 to 111 in just a day (as of Sunday morning), it almost doubled. If we do nothing, this will increase to 10,000 in one month.”
Meanwhile, Año said members of the Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases are set to meet on Monday with President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss additional measures that may be adopted to contain the threat of Covid-19.
Television footages showed that policemen only did a random check of vehicles going in and out of Metro Manila. Also, policemen did not check for IDs and destinations of passengers, contrary to the guidelines set.
Año and police officials admitted that there are shortcomings during the first day of the implementation of the 30-day community quarantine in Metro Manila.
“There are actually many (shortcomings), you know it. Countries around the globe were also not prepared. We are not really prepared for this crisis like other countries, even US, even China,” he said.
The DILG chief said security forces were not that strict in the implementation of the community quarantine Sunday but assured that “there will be stricter measures.”
“We’re hoping for additional stricter measures by the government…. My stand, I play a major role as part of the security sector. I want to restrict the movement of the people so the virus won’t further spread,” said Año.
He also said not all policemen who manned checkpoints in Metro Manila had personal protective equipment like face masks. Officials said the problem is being addressed by the police force.
“But they have to do their job, we have no other option because of the requirement. We have to deploy them though their protective gear is very basic. They have to do their job anyway. That’s why we need the cooperation of the public,” he noted.
Año explained some passenger buses were not checked as they entered Metro Manila because they were already checked when they left their respective terminals.
“We are considering closing some roads and redirect them to roads where we can focus our personnel,” he said.
PNP director for police community relations and acting spokesman, Maj. Gen. Benigno Durana said unit commanders will be taking steps to equip policemen with protective gears “so they can properly implement the community quarantine.”
“This is the first day that we have conducted community quarantine…There are some things that we have to iron out and hopefully, by tomorrow, these (issues) will be addressed by unit commanders,” Durana said.
“There are areas of improvement like necessary equipment, they (policemen) are not in full gear…Those are the issues we want to address as the day progress,” he added.
Año said there will be stricter checking of the vehicles on Monday.
“We are going to check it all. It will be very inconvenient and very uncomfortable so we are telling the communities not to go to Manila if they have nothing essential to do. You are going to be delayed by two to three hours (at the checkpoint), we have to do these (measures),” he explained.
Año said people should avoid going in and out of Metro Manila if their activities are not that important.
“If you have nothing to do, stay at home. I cannot understand why people are coming out. What are they doing? Challenging the virus? There is no superman here, no rich, no poor,” he said in Filipino.
He said security forces, led by the police and the military, will be stricter in the implementation of the community quarantine.
“Otherwise, we might be like Italy in two to three months’ time. The whole country of Italy is on lockdown, nobody can leave their homes. We need not wait thousands will be affected before we make a move,” he stressed.
He appealed to the public to report if there will be policemen who are going to abuse their powers while manning the checkpoints.
“We assure the public that our police officers manning the checkpoints will follow all laws and regulations in enforcing the community quarantine. If there are abuses, please report that to DILG and we will act on it immediately,” said Año. (PNA)