Metro Manila quarantined and Masses suspended as Covid-19 cases hit 100

Tourists wear face masks while walking around Manila. Photo: UCAN/Joe Torres

MANILA (SE): In a bid to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, Metro Manila was put into lockdown mode on March 14 with Philippine authorities proposing to implement a 8:00pm to 5:00am curfew until April 14. A directive issued by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, placed the sprawling national capital region under a 30-day “community quarantine,” according to the Inquirer.

Masses were suspended in dioceses across the city including Manila, Cubao, Kalookan, Pasig, Novaliches, and Parañaque, CBCPNews reported on March 14. Public Masses and other Church gatherings have also been cancelled indefinitely in the Archdiocese of Davao and in the dioceses of San Pablo, Legazpi and Bacolod.

Meanwhile, CBCPNews also reported that Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Diocese of Balanga, suspended Church services in areas “very much affected by confirmed person positive with the coronavirus, including the parishes of Orani, Tapulao, and Balanga. 

The Archdiocese of Caceres has also implemented precautionary measures to safeguard the faithful against the further transmission of the virus.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has encouraged the dioceses to make Masses available on radio, television and the Internet.

CNN Philippines also reported on March 14 that travel to and from Metro manila by land, local air, local sea travel is to be restricted, although those who have work in the metropolis will be “provisionally allowed” to enter and leave once they present proof of employment or business at border checkpoints.

People who are flying out of the country will also be allowed to enter Metro Manila, where Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located, but they must present proof that they have a flight scheduled in the next 12 hours.

Previously, the Department of Health of the Philippines had mooted the possibility of localised lockdowns on areas with a significant number of Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) cases, CNN Philippines reported on March 10.

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Duterte, declared a state of public health emergency only hours after the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases reached 10, the Inquirer reported. 

The Department of Health had previously confirmed the country’s first locally contracted Covid-19 case on March 6. 

A 62-year-old Filipino man not believed to have recently in other countries with confirmed cases tested positive for the disease.

“It can be considered as a local case … The absence of travel is a clear indication that this is a local case,” Duque, told reporters at a media briefing.

He said it was too early to say whether the case marked the start of community transmission.

“There is no transmission to speak of as of yet because we only have one. We are 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. We can still contain the spread of the virus in the country,” Duque said. 

He said the infected man, who was admitted to a Manila hospital with pneumonia on March 1, had pre-existing health issues and was suffering from diabetes and hypertension. He went to a hospital after starting coughing on February 25, the health chief added.

Confirmation he had the Covid-19 virus came on March 5, making him the fifth confirmed case in the Philippines.

Local news reports reported assistant secretary for Health, Maria Rosario Vergerie, as saying one of the man’s relatives had displayed flu-like symptoms and was also under quarantine at a hospital.

A Muslim prayer hall in the San Juan City area of the Philippine capital was being investigated after it emerged that the infected man, a local resident, was a frequent visitor, CNN said.

Meanwhile, another Covid-19 case confirmed in the Philippines on March 6 was that of a 48-year-old Filipino man who had recently returned from a trip to Japan. He also tested positive on March 5, Duque said. 

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The Inquirer reported on March 10 that legislators in the Philippine House of Representatives’ committee on appropriations on Tuesday approved a 1.6 billion peso ($245.8 million) supplemental budget for the country’s response against Covid-19.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines as of March 14 stands at 111, with eight deaths, according to the Inquirer’s online Novel Coronavirus Update, which compiles data from the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health.

Some 145,636 cases have been confirmed worldwide of which about 72,001 have recovered.

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