TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Leyte has been placed under general community quarantine starting Wednesday, March 18, to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Provincial Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla signed Executive Order No. 03-2020-03 restricting entry into the province from midnight of March 18 to April 17. (READ: Coronavirus Outbreak | VISAYAS: Provinces, cities, towns on lockdown)
Only members of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and health workers would be allowed to enter the province.
Returning residents and people with essential travel are required to show proof of residency, employment, and necessity of business.
Those eturning from other provinces are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Border control manned by the military, police, and health and local government personnel will be set up in designated areas, while piers will be manned by the Philippine Coast Guards.
The EO also suspended public gatherings including fiestas, assemblies, trade fairs, fund raising, and other public events until further notice.
The provincial government required mass public transportation to observe safety measures in terminals and vehicles. This includes the provision of alcohol or hand sanitizers, and use of thermal scanners upon entrance.
Passengers with above normal temperature may be denied entry. Those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 would be referred to the nearest medical centers.
Private companies are also asked to enforce preventive and safety measures in the office.
Municipalities and component cities are required to impose a curfew, although the EO did not specify the curfew hours.
Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who was initially reluctant to impose the measure, declared a Tacloban lockdown starting Saturday, March 21.
“I would doubt very much if that virus is not yet here. Many had run here to Tacloban,” Romualdez said on Tuesday, March 17.
A lockdown EO from the Mayor’s office has yet to be released but Tacloban City Health Office Head Dr. Gloria Fabrigas said she supported the lockdown because of the uncertainty about people carrying the virus in the province.
“I signed another death certificate (with the cause of death) community acquired pneumonia with high risk of acute respiratory failure. So how will we know that these are not Covid-19 with this many [deaths],” Fabrigas said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“This is why we support the lockdown within Tacloban City, at least for 14 days. The virus is here to stay, but the virus [transmission] has to stop,” she added.
Meanwhile, Southern Leyte was placed under voluntary community quarantine from March 17 to 31, limiting entry of vehicles and individuals with the exception of those delivering necessities.
Seaports in Liloan and San Ricardo have already been closed to all passenger vessels except cargo.
As of posting, Eastern Visayas has zero COVID-19 cases, while 43 patients are under investigation (PUI).
The Philippines has 193 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, with 14 deaths and 7 recoveries. Globally, there are more than 175,000 cases, with over 7,000 deaths across 145 countries.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of calamity in the Philippines on March 17 as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike. – Rappler.com
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said that the memo placing Tacloban City under lockdown had already been released. It has not yet been published. We’ve corrected the error)