[This is the first of Blue & Gold’s three-part multimedia report about the year-long community quarantine implemented in the Philippines.]
This week marks the one year anniversary of the lockdown in the Philippines, which is longest in the world, as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic, with the first local case identified on January 30, 2020.
A number of community quarantine measures have been implemented since March 2020, first in Metro Manila, which was then expanded to Luzon before applying it to the entire country.
As of March 15, 2021, a year after the first quarantine measure was announced, the country logged 5,404 cases, its highest since August 2020.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.
People infected with the virus are most likely to experience symptoms of fever, dry cough, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell. Other symptoms that are less common are muscle or joint pain, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, headaches, among others.
China reported last December 2019 to the World Health Organization (WHO) a cluster of pneumonia cases “of unknown cause” in Wuhan, a highly developed city in the province of Hubei.
Health officials linked the cause of the pneumonia outbreak to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. This caused the closure of the market on January 1, 2020.
President Duterte then issued a travel ban a day after the first confirmed case.
The Philippines recorded its first case of COVID-19 on January 30, 2020, despite suspending all flights from Wuhan on January 23.
Dubbed PH01, the patient had a travel history from Hong Kong, Cebu, Dumaguete, and Manila before being admitted to San Lazaro Hospital in Manila on January 2.
On the same day, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as “a public health emergency of international concern.”
President Duterte then issued a travel ban a day after the first confirmed case. The ban halted visitors from Hubei province, where Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, is located.
Case PH02, the second reported in the country, involved a 44-year old Chinese man who was admitted to San Lazaro Hospital for pneumonia after suffering from fever, cough, and sore throat. PH02 was the companion of the 38-year-old Chinese woman who was earlier confirmed as the first case of infection in the Philippines.
On February 1, the Philippines reported its first coronavirus death with PH02. It was also the first COVID-19 death outside of China.
The Philippines recorded its first local transmission of the coronavirus by March 6. Two days later, President Duterte declared a state of public health emergency upon the confirmed local transmission.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic as cases hit 118,000 and more than 4,000 deaths were recorded worldwide on March 12.
On March 14, the Department of Health reported a total of 111 cases in the country, surpassing the 100-mark.
On March 15, 2020 President Rodrigo Duterte announced the ‘lockdown’ of Metro Manila which initially lasted until April 14.
The lockdown restricted the movement of people living in Metro Manila by means of land, air, and sea travel as the region is placed under community quarantine.
On March 17, after a challenged implementation of the Metro Manila lockdown, mainland Luzon was placed under ‘enhanced’ community quarantine.
In the Enhanced Community Quarantine, mass transportations are suspended and work is prohibited. All establishments are closed except for markets, stores, banks, hospitals, among others.
“Let me be this clear, this is not martial law,” assured President Duterte in a live public address.
On March 24, the National Economic and Development Authority called for a ‘widespread’ coronavirus testing, which is “the key to a successful medical response,” the agency said.
On March 28, the Philippines surpassed the 1,000-mark as 272 new coronavirus cases were reported. Total cases were raised to 1,075.
In President Duterte’s address on March 31, the national government “have allotted P200 billion for low-income households who are badly affected by this crisis. Beneficiary households will receive emergency support for their two months,” he said.
By the end of March, the Philippines had 2,084 total cases with 88 deaths and 49 recoveries.
On the same day, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) Commission on Legislative chairman Dr. Oscar Tinio said that the deaths could have been prevented if there was an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the front liners.
The following day, around 15,000 sets of PPEs had arrived in the country, the first batch of one million sets of PPE worth P1.8B that the government procured for medical front liners.
The government enacted their ‘mass testing’ program on April 4, with only those who were suspected of COVID-19 and high-risk patients getting tested.
“Hindi po ibig sabihin nito na lahat ng Pilipino ay itetest natin. Ang mass testing po na ating sinasabi ay isang malawakang testing ng mga taong at risk sa COVID-19,” said Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, Health Department spokesperson.
On April 7, the enhanced community quarantine over mainland Luzon was extended until April 30, 2020.
The Philippine government planned to spend a staggering P600 billion in the fight against the COVID-19 virus and for the cash subsidies of around 18 million families.
On April 9, the cases breached the 4,000 mark with 203 deaths and 124 recoveries in the country.
“poor planning, delayed response, lack of transparency, and misguided and flip-flopping policies and measures“The Senate
Worldwide, 1.4 million people had been infected and more than 88, 000 people had died, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 global tracker.
On April 16, despite a resolution signed by at least 14 senators for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to resign, President Duterte decided to keep him at his post.
The senators said Duque’s “poor planning, delayed response, lack of transparency, and misguided and flip-flopping policies and measures” in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is endangering the lives of healthcare workers and all Filipinos.
On April 24, President Rodrigo Duterte extended enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and “other high risk” provinces in Luzon until May 15.
Other areas such as Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecijia, Pampanga, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Albay, and Catanduanes, were also placed in ECQ, said the Presidential spokesperson in a taped briefing.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque further added that all low-risk and moderate-risk areas would be under “general community quarantine” or GCQ until mid-May.
Restrictions for GCQ were ‘more relaxed’ compared to ECQ, where mass transportation is allowed at a limited capacity, establishments such as restaurants and barbershops are allowed to continue operations, and only people aged 21-59 years old are allowed to go out.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) finalized the list of businesses and industries that shall be allowed to operate on May 1, as officials plan to bounce back the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 6, cases in the Philippines broke 10,000 as the DOH recorded 320 new cases. Total recoveries reached 1,506 and total deaths reached 658.
On May 12, Roque announced that Metro Manila, Laguna, and Cebu City would be placed under ‘modified’ enhanced community quarantine from May 16 until May 31.
Under MECQ, minimum public health standards should be followed and movement of residents for work or to access essential goods and services are limited.
On May 18, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the government still had no plans to carry out mass testing to detect COVID-19 infections in the country, adding that authorities would leave such efforts in the hands of private businesses.
The Philippines reached the 15,000-mark by the end of May as confirmed cases reached 15,049. Total recoveries were 3,056 and the death toll was raised to 904.
[Go to part 2.]
Writer: Jose Rafael Palomares
Featured Artwork: Lea Isabel Pagayatan
Layout: Bea Marie Ongkiko, Eunice Micah Patricio
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