In the wake of an unprecedented lockdown of Metro Manila, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte doubled-down on Monday by ordering the entire island of Luzon sealed off to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
The largest and most populous island in the Philippines, the “enhanced community quarantine” imposes de facto martial law over more than 55 million people, with business operations brought to a standstill, and people confined to their homes until April 13.
“The president’s ultimate goal is to save ourselves from ourselves”, presidential spokesperson, Salvador Panelo said in a television interview.
The measures require all airports in Luzon to stop catering to international flights — whether outbound or inbound — by March 20; Filipinos are not allowed to leave the Philippines through any of the Luzon international airports beginning today (March 17), or as soon as the lockdown takes effect.
Only uniformed personnel transporting medical supplies, individuals carrying lab specimens, or those on humanitarian missions will be permitted to travel by air under the new orders.
72-hours to leave Luzon
Those wanting to leave the Philippines from a Luzon airport will be allowed to do so for 72-hours from the enhanced community quarantine guidelines coming into effect, while international passengers transiting through Luzon will be allowed entry subject to applicable quarantine procedures.
The guidelines permit only Filipinos, their spouses and children, holders of a permanent resident visa, and foreign diplomats entry into the Philippines from an international flight.
“After the 72-hour window, all airports in Luzon will be closed”, DOTr spokesperson, assistant secretary, Goddes Libiran told the media in Manila.
Ramping up the community containment measures the government also suspended all public transport in Luzon without notice, leaving commuters stranded at checkpoints and terminals.
The Luzon lockdown demands strict home quarantine by all households, with the government claiming it has organised sufficient food and essential supplies to meet demand.
Although President Duterte was quick to allay fears that he was declaring martial law, telling the nation “don’t get scared, because nobody will display their guns”, the heightened presence of uniformed personnel on the streets is causing alarm and only adding to the ‘martial law’ feel.
The island of Luzon accounts for about one-third of the Philippines, producing about 70 per cent of the country’s economic output.
The Luzon lockdown, if enforced as ordered, is the most stringent measures introduced yet by an Asean member country and are set to deal a significant blow to the Philippines economy. Hundreds of thousands of daily wage earners are at risk of penury.
The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) suspended trading in the wake of the Luzon lockdown announcement, becoming the first financial markets to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bourse chief executive officer, Ramon Monzon, said he plans to reopen the $188 billion market on Thursday, seeking a quick resumption of trading.
Hours before the Luzon lockdown central bank governor, Benjamin Diokno, said the monetary authority is considering a 50 basis point interest-rate cut.
As of the time of writing there have been 187 recorded COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, with 14 people having died.
Feature photo Philippine News Agency
- Luzon airports to close after 72 hours (GMA News)
- Coronavirus: Philippines imposes home quarantine on entire Luzon island, affecting more than 50 million people (South China Morning Post)
- Entire Luzon under quarantine amid surge of COVID cases (Tempo)
- Economic carnage across Asean increases as COVID-19 effect intensifies (AEC News Today)
Between November 2010 and February 2012 she was a staff writer at Daylight Online, Nigeria writing on health, fashion, and relationships. From 2010 – 2017 she worked as a freelance screen writer for ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria.
She joined AEC News Today in December 2016.