Philippines locks down entire Luzon island, strengthens Manila restrictions
Manila, Mar 16 (efe-epa).- The President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered strict quarantine measures for the entire island of Luzon – the biggest and most populous in the country – and strengthened the lockdown of the capital to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“I am placing the entire mainland of Luzon under quarantine until 12 April 2020, coinciding with the end of Holy Week,” Duterte said in a televised address Monday.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo had confirmed the “extended quarantine” hours before the president announced the fresh measures to the nation.
The island of Luzon, where Manila is located, is home to some 57 million inhabitants, more than half of the country’s population.
Duterte said the measure would come into immediate effect since the focus of Covid-19 is expanding to other provinces of the Philippines.
So far 142 coronavirus cases and 12 deaths have been recorded in the country, according to the latest count by the Department of Health.
However, it is suspected there are many more unreported cases due to the shortage of diagnostics equipment, especially given the origin of transmissions for at least half of detected cases could not be ascertained.
“You have no choice, you have to stay at home,” the president told the population.
Duterte said there would be sufficient supplies of food and medicine during the month-long quarantine period and insisted on the need to maintain a “social distance” of one metre in interactions with other people.
The Manila metropolitan area, home to around 13 million people, has been under community quarantine since Sunday and its access points by land, sea and air have been closed, although international flights to and from the city are being permitted.
On Monday Duterte ordered a stricter quarantine in Manila and surrounding Luzon, which instructs people to remain at home with some exceptions, such as shopping for essentials.
Work was suspended in both public and private sectors and all establishments were ordered to close.
Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open, and ATMs will be operational, but not bank branches.
A curfew has been imposed between 8 pm and 5 am during which people are not allowed to leave home under any circumstances.
The fresh measures also include the suspension of all forms of transport and increased deployment of the military and police personnel to ensure compliance with the orders, which would last for at least a month.
The Philippines also repatriated 444 Filipinos – 438 crew and 6 passengers- from the MV Grand Princess cruise ship on a flight from San Francisco to the city of Clark, where they will quarantine.EFE-EPA