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MANILA, Philippines – Mayor Sara Duterte placed Davao City on community quarantine to prevent the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus through an executive order signed on Sunday, March 15.
The order is “effective immediately,” but it did not specify until when it should take effect.
In an interview with the Davao City Disaster Radio DCDR 87.5 FM, Duterte explained the decision to put the city under quarantine was due to the challenges in coronavirus testing.
She said that tests are sent to Manila from Davao, and the results take about 2 days to come out.
“I don’t think we should wait (for a patient to test positive) before we declare a community quarantine,” Duterte said.
Under the executive order, community quarantine rules require people to stay in their homes and only leave for work, food or medicine, take out garbage, or go to the hospital.
Mass gatherings are suspended as well, including religious activities and classes from kindergarten to postgraduate studies.
Private companies are required to prepare and implement flexible working arrangements for their employees. Online meetings and online bank transactions are likewise required. Government work, however, is not suspended.
Employees coming from other areas may enter the city, provided that they undergo the necessary screening procedures.
Moreover, residents are required to get services and buy goods online from local suppliers only.
Public transportation and cargo deliveries, meanwhile, are allowed.
The community quarantine declaration comes after the first confirmed case in the Davao Region. Department of Health (DOH) Regional Director Anabelle Yumang said the patient, the Philippines' 130th recorded case, is in stable condition at the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City.
Yumang said the DOH has started contact tracing to determine the identities of those who may have interacted with the patient.
“Persons who will be identified to have close interaction with the confirmed case will be interviewed and assessed for proper management,” she added.
One step away from lockdown
Duterte also said that a community quarantine was "one step away from a lockdown". She said that an infectious diseases expert explained to the Davao City government that a lockdown is imposed when there is already a confirmed COVID-19 case in the area.
"She [infections diseases expert] said that a lockdown means controlling the spread of the disease to other areas," Duterte said, adding that this was why the national government had to make the "difficult decision" of controling land, sea, and air travel in and out of Metro Manila where there are confirmed COVID-19 cases.
In an earlier memo, Duterte also ordered a ban on flights from Clark City. (READ: Davao City closes borders due to coronavirus outbreak)
Duterte's father, President Rodrigo Duterte, flies back to Davao City from Manila every week.
Asked about the President's flights to the city, Duterte said in a text message to Rappler: "Our President is our Commander-in- Chief, we will not prevent him from visiting places [where] his presence is needed." – with reports from Allan Nawal/Rappler.com