Dubai: Filipinos are worried as cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise in the Philippines, even as President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire country under state of public health emergency on Monday.
In a pre-recorded speech delivered from Malacañang, Duterte also ordered putting the entire island of Luzon – with around 58M people or 59 per cent of the entire Filipino population – under “enhanced community quarantine” until April 12 as the deadly disease has so far affected at least 142 people (including senator Juan Miguel Zuburi from Bukidnon) and claimed 12 lives in the Philippines.
“I generally support what the Philippines has been doing to minimise the number of casualties and spread of the virus but I’m, however, worried of its spread in the Philippines,” Dubai resident and Filipino-Egyptian expat Sara El Kashef told Gulf News.
Roy Tamano, community leader of Muslim OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), added: “This (enhanced community quarantine) is a welcome preventive measure but I guess it’s a little bit late. It should have been issued the moment the virus infected the first victim.
“Most of the people are complying but some are confused and worried how they will survive for a month. The majority of population living below poverty line may develop other common sickness as a result of the lockdown and paralysis of their source of income,” Tamano added.
Jun Cargullo, Philippine-based photojournalist and former Dubai resident, also commented: “The quarantine was a decision that came late. The government should be proactive and decisive in dealing with this kind of health crisis.”
“Before declaring this ‘community quarantine,’ the government should have ready guidelines to avoid confusion. As always, there have been many conflicting interpretations from different agencies as the statement from President Duterte remains incoherent and vague,” he added.
Duterte’s lockdown order was initially limited to Metro Manila or the national capital region but he said: “Upon further study of worldwide trends, I have come to the conclusion that stricter measures are necessary.”
He said the enhanced community quarantine is effective immediately which means movement will be significantly limited and everyone will be subjected to strict home quarantine.
Companies were asked to implement a work-from-home scheme as there will be no movement and no transportation, except for frontline health workers and vital government workforce as well as transport of basic services and necessities.
People can, however, “leave their home to buy food and medication for survival in the coming days.” The provision for food and essential services shall be regulated and there will be heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedure .
“It will be difficult for all of us but do not be afraid,” assured Duterte, adding: “This is not Martial Law but this is a lockdown to prevent the contagion.”
Duterte underlined there is no ordinance required to execute the stringent measures.
“My countrymen, our most potent weapons are not bullets and ammunition but your compassion with our fellow Filipinos. We are at war against this (COVID-19) vicious and invisible enemy. In this extraordinary war, we are all soldiers – young or old, every Filipino – along with the state,” he underscored.
Duterte ordered mayors and local government officials down to the barangay (village) level to execute his order “to maintain public order and safety.” Officials who will not enforce the quarantine measure will be held liable for dereliction of duty, he added.
Call to big business
Duterte has also called on big businesses and companies to release in advance the 13th month pay of affected rank-and-file workers, even at a pro-rated basis, to help them tide over the crisis.
He likewise ordered utility companies to give households a one-month reprieve in paying electricity and water bills.
People who cannot afford to pay home rent at the moment can also be excused, according to Duterte, who also made an off-the-cuff remark that he will “personally pay the rents from his own pocket.”
Duterte assured the government has sufficient budget and added he got assurance from food conglomerates there is sufficient food supply in the Philippines.
Kababayans told to keep calm
Meanwhile, in a statement sent to Gulf News, Philippine consul-general Paul Raymund Cortes has called on his kababayans (countrymen) to keep calm and trust the government.
“Trust that our government is doing everything it can to ensure that even with the ‘enhanced community quarantine’, basic services, food, and medicine, and essential items will be made available for our people. With heightened measures, we hope that the spread of the virus will abate and that the general well-being of our families and friends back home is ensured.
“In the interest of public health and safety and being responsible citizens, I urge our kababayans (countrymen) not to worry as our government is implementing strategies to control and mitigate the further spread of Covid-19 in the Philippines.
What “enhanced community quarantine” means
- Strict home quarantine in all households
- Movement of people is limited only to accessing basic necessities
- Suspension of transport services, except for frontline health workers and vital government workforce as well as transport of basic goods
- Regulated provision for food and essential health services
- Heightened military presence to enforce quarantine procedures.
This (enhanced community quarantine) is a welcome preventive measure but I guess a little bit late. It should have been issued the moment the virus infected the first victim. Most of the people are complying but some are confused and worried how they will survive for a month. The majority of population living below poverty line may develop other common sickness as a result of the lockdown and paralysis of their source of income.
I’m currently in Metro Manila. Malls have been closed, except for groceries and pharmacies. Queues are long at grocery stores but generally basic services are still available. The quarantine was not a military reaction as soldiers were placed to ensure people will follow the regulations. No country was prepared for COVID-19. Let’s chill, pray and hope that we all get through this soon.
The quarantine was a decision that came late. The government should be proactive and decisive in dealing with this kind of health crisis. Before declaring this ‘community quarantine,’ the government should have ready guidelines to avoid confusion. As always, there have been many conflicting interpretations from different agencies as the statement from President Duterte remains incoherent and vague.
At this point when the world is being hit by a virus causing pandemic, I suggest we comply with the quarantine. It’s for our family’s sake. Let’s avoid the complacency that hit Italy and South Korea, where tens of thousands got infected and hundreds died very fast.
Sara El Kashef, Filipino-Egyptian
I generally support what the Philippines has been doing to minimise the number of casualties and spread of the virus. This shows the nation’s commitment to the people’s health and wellness. They are taking all the precautionary steps before the matter gets out of hand. I am, however, worried about the spread of the coronavirus in the Philippines but I am sure this (quarantine) is for everyone’s best.
Filipino patient in UAE recovers from Covid-19
Dubai: A Filipino expat diagnosed positive for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has recovered from the deadly disease, a top Filipino diplomat confirmed to Gulf News on Monday.
Marford Angeles, consul-general and deputy head of mission at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi said: “The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the Philippine Embassy that one Filipino patient has already tested negative for COVID-19.”
Authorities, however, did not provide further details as to the age and sex of the patient.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) announced on Sunday 12 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 98 – and out of this, five are Filipinos.
“Per coordination of the Philippine Embassy with UAE authorities and according to the latest announcement from MoHAP dated March 15, there is one Filipino among the 12 new cases of Covid-19 in the UAE, bringing the total to 5 Filipinos in the UAE with Covid-19,” Angeles told Gulf News.
He added: “The UAE authorities have assured the Embassy that the Filipino Covid-19 patients are being monitored and are receiving necessary treatment according to highest medical standards.”
“The Embassy calls on all Filipinos in the UAE to pray for the full recovery of our kababayans (compatriots) from Covid-19,” Angeles underlined.