LAGUNA, Philippines – Against the glaring headlights of cars lined up, Ryan Arboleda, a nurse at the San Pedro City Laguna Epidemiology Surveillance Unit powers through the row of people attempting to cross the city border into Muntinlupa, Metro Manila.
He knows he must check every passenger for symptoms of the coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, before anyone enters the mega-city. Armed with only a surgical face mask, gloves, and a handheld thermometer, beads of sweat trickle down his face after checking nearly 50 passengers.
It’s Sunday, March 15, and barely an hour has passed since the Philippine government enforced a lockdown of Metro Manila in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
For government health workers like Arboleda, the order means they are tasked to head to the frontlines to check each person who moves into and out of the capital region for signs of the virulent disease.
His tool of measure is precise: anyone exhibiting temperatures of a fever must turn around and head back to where they came from if they do not live in the metro.
On the first night of the lockdown, described by government officials as “community quarantine,” Arboleda stands one health worker among cops as the city’s health unit is spread thin monitoring other checkpoints across Laguna.
“Tinulungan lang po natin mga kapulisan para lamang kung sakali may mga katanungan ang mga pasahero natin o mga indibidwal na nahaharang po natin, meron isang local health authority na mapagtatanungan at makakapagbigay ng tamang kaalaman,” Arboleda told Rappler.
(We are helping the police so that in case there are passengers and commuters who have questions, there is someone from the local health authority to give them correct information.)
Aside from addressing commuters’ concerns, Arboleda is responsible for ensuring police can properly check passengers and screen them for symptoms.
As of Sunday, March 15, the Philippines counted 140 coronavirus cases, including 11 deaths. Laguna reported its first case the same night the lockdown was enforced.
Arboleda is aware of the risks his job brings, but times of crises, he said, reinforce the virtue of his calling to become a health worker.
“Sanay na po mga health workers natin dito sa Pilipinas…. Ito ang direktiba na tinanggap natin para tugunan ang tungkulin natin bilang manggagawa ng kalusugan,” he said.
(Health workers in the Philippines are used to this…. This is the directive we accept to fulfill our duty as health workers.) – Rappler.com