Duterte suspends classes, work in gov't in Metro Manila until April 12

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte suspended classes in all levels and government work in the executive branch for one month or until April 12, in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines. 

Duterte announced the measure in a televised public address on Thursday night, March 12.

The measure was based on the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, which met earlier on Thursday to discuss urgent measures to combat the coronavirus crisis.

The President read from the resolution submitted by the task force, with the premise that he would turn the resolution into an executive order to make it enforceable.

What to expect: Schools are covered by the pronouncement, but all students will still be made to continue their educational requirements during the one-month period.  

The latest move is an expansion of Duterte's earlier pronouncement to suspend classes in the mega-city from March 10 to 14. 

Suspension of classes and work in government will take effect on Sunday, March 15.

Local government units outside the National Capital Region may exercise “sound discretion” on determining whether or not to suspend classes in their areas. If they choose to do so, local officials must ensure students will continue to fulfill academic requirements and remain in their homes for the measure to be effective. 

For government work in the executive branch, suspension will likewise be in place for a period of 30 days, though agencies may form skeletal workforces to ensure government services continue. Only offices in Metro Manila are covered by the order. 

Health and emergency services are not covered by the pronouncement, and will continue in full operation. 

Legislative and judicial offices are "encouraged" to adopt the policy. 

What about workers in the private sector? The task force encouraged all private business in Metro Manila to observe flexible working arrangements. The labor department earlier issued guidelines for these arrangements. 

However, all manufacturing, retail, and service establishments were advised to remain operational, provided employers put in place strict social distancing measures.  

Why this matters. Sweeping measures set in place were drafted by a technical advisory group led by infectious disease experts to quell the spread of the virus in the Philippines. 

Duterte on Monday, March 9, earlier declared a state of public health emergency after the health officials announced more confirmed coronavirus cases, including the first case of local transmission in the Philippines. 

The Philippines has recorded at least 52 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday. Two people have died. 

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 125,000 people and killed 4,600 across 115 countries. More than 62,000 people have recovered from the virus. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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