[This is the second of Blue & Gold’s three-part multimedia report about the year-long community quarantine implemented in the Philippines. You can read the first part here.]

This week marks the one year anniversary of the lockdown in the Philippines, which is one of the 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 quarantine was announced, the country logged 5,404 cases, its highest since August 2020.

Photo by Eunlescender Padpad

Metro Manila and other provinces were placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) on June 1, 2020 due to the ‘low rate of infection.’ By mid-June, Cebu went back to ECQ as COVID infections increased.

President Duterte stated he would not approve face-to-face classes until a vaccine became available.

Instead, the Department of Education (DepEd) offered online and blended learning methods as alternatives for physical classes. In areas with slow or no internet connectivity, lessons were done through television, radio, and learning modules.

DepEd moved the opening of classes of public schools to October 5 from the initial date of August 24 as MECQ was raised in several areas. Other schools were allowed to start the school year by early August 2020. DepEd estimated 6.4 million students initially enrolled for the current school year.

Photo by Rhyan Quiambao

On June 21, several private school institutions and local government units requested limited physical classes to low-risk areas. Education Secretary Leonor Briones responded that face-to-face classes would be allowed following the conditions offset by the IATF.

Briones added that physical classes would strictly follow health protocols for students’, teachers’, and school personnel’s safety.

By July 4, patients who were infected by COVID-19 but did not exhibit any symptoms were included in the mass testing program. Testing asymptomatic patients also covered transport workers, law enforcers, guards, and cashiers, among others.

In a press conference, COVID-19 Response Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon claimed that the COVID-19 testing capacity reached 41,990.

This surpassed the Philippines’ testing capacity last June, which was at 34,000 a day. This refers to the number of tests that laboratories could conduct daily without taking into account other factors such as operational issues.

By August 2, the Philippines reached the 100,000 mark for COVID-19 cases.

By August 2, the Philippines reached the 100,000 mark for COVID-19 cases. This was marked the fourth consecutive day where the country hit a new record of confirmed cases. Metro Manila led the most cases in the country, while Cavite had the largest number of provincial cases.

Russia’s vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ was approved on August 12. It was the first to be approved in the global race for COVID-19 vaccines. Made by Gamelaya Institute, the vaccine was questioned as it had not passed the vital Phase 3 of the clinical trial.

The Sputnik V vaccine was found to offer 92% protection against the virus.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that the Russia-made vaccine must undergo local processes and procedures for approval.

“Whether or not we could actually use it will depend on compliance with our existing laws, because we have a statute which penalizes the use of any drug without prior approval of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” Roque added.

President Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, also known as Bayanihan II, last September 1 to aid in the government’s response against COVID-19.

Bayanihan II allowed government agencies to release the P165.5 billion to address the economic impact of the pandemic.

Roque stated that Bayanihan II was crucial in re-opening and revitalizing PH’s economy, as well as supporting businesses.

Bayanihan II included an additional standby fund of P25.5 billion, on top of a P140 billion fund.
In Bayanihan II, 3 billion pesos were allocated for purchasing additional PPEs, P13.5 billion for compensation of front liners, P4.5 billion for expansion of quarantine facilities, among others.

An amount of P6 billion was given to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for cash assistance in areas under lockdown. As COVID-19 treatments became available, P10 billion was on-standby for purchasing vaccines and medicines.

By September 26, COVID-19 cases in the country breached 300,000. Metro Manila had the highest number of recorded infections, followed by Negros Occidental and Cavite.

Metro Manila contained its GCQ status for October, together with Batangas and cities of Bacolod and Tacloban.

Photo by Rhyan Quiambao

Despite appeals from parents and teachers, over 22 million students from public schools returned to school last October 5. The school year for 47,000 public schools opened through blended learning.

Concerns of slow internet connection and lack of gadgets made parents choose modular learning, but dangers of COVID-19 infection during the distribution of modules arose.

“We will not allow COVID-19 to destroy our children’s education and their future.”

DepEd Secretary Briones

In an online event for the public school opening, Education Secretary Leonor Briones declared a victory over COVID-19.

“Today we celebrate a great victory, we declare our victory over COVID-19. We will not allow COVID-19 to destroy our children’s education and their future,” Briones said.

Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso announced the cancellation of the grand procession of the Black Nazarene last October 23. Also known as Traslacion, it is a religious event that gathers millions of its devotees every January 9.

The cancellation was brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a tweet, Domagoso added that the Traslacion might bring harm to its devotees.

October ended with 380,729 total confirmed cases, with deaths summed up to 7,221 and recoveries reached 331,046.

Senate President Vicente Sotto claimed that two lawmakers had been vaccinated against the coronavirus. In an interview, Sotto said that Senator Panfilo Lacson and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez were ‘brave’ as they were vaccinated with Pfizer vaccines.

The Department of Health responded to this by reminding the public to follow protocols created by authorities. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated that these protocols ensure the safety of vaccines.

Photo by Alex Teruel

“We understand that people are eager to receive a vaccine out of fear [for the virus] and because they want an end to the situation facing us now, but this is not the right way to go,” said Vergeire during a press briefing.

According to the Health Department, an executive order was needed for emergency use of coronavirus vaccines and for granting the emergency use authorization (EUA) to the FDA. With this order, it was expected to hasten the approval of these vaccines.

According to Vergeire, Philippine laws do not allow the Department of Health to give authority to the FDA.

On November 30, COVID-19 cases in the country logged 431,630, with recoveries amounting to 398,658 and deaths summed at 8,392.

Experts from the Octa research group predicted that cases might reach 470,000 to 500,000 by the end of 2020.

[Watch out for part 3 tomorrow.]

Writer: Lorenzo Benedict Alday
Featured Photo: Alex Teruel
Layout: Bea Marie Ongkiko, Eunice Micah Patricio

REFERENCES

CHAPTER 3

June 2020 

CNN. (2020, May 28). Metro Manila eases to GCQ on June 1. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/5/28/Duterte-Metro-Manila-community-quarantine-MECQ-GCQ-decision.html

CNN. (2020, June 4). PH may now test asymptomatic patients, says COVID-19 deputy chief implementer. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/4/PH-may-now-test-asymptomatics-COVID-19.html

CNN. (2020, June 4). Total COVID-19 cases breach 20,000 mark, deaths near 1,000. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/4/doh-covid-19-cases-june4.html

Lopez, M. L. (2020, June 5). 7.3 million Filipinos jobless in April amid COVID-19 pandemic – PSA. https://cnnphilippines.com/business/2020/6/5/unemployment-April-2020-COVID-19.html

CNN. (2020, June 8). DepEd heeds Duterte’s call: No face-to-face classes until COVID-19 vaccine is available. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/8/School-face-to-face-classes-DepEd-Duterte-COVID-19-vaccine.html

Tan, L. (2020, June 11). Death of Michelle Silvertino sparks change in gov’t efforts to help locally-stranded Filipinos. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/11/Michelle-Silvertino-locally-stranded-individuals-COVID-19-travel-restrictions.html

CNN. (2020, June 11). IATF OKs reopening restaurant dine-in under GCQ areas. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/11/GCQ-Metro-Manila-Cebu-restaurant-dine-in-COVID-19.html

CNN. (2020, June 16). Metro Manila stays under GCQ, Cebu City reverts to strictest ECQ. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/16/Metro-Manila-GCQ-Cebu-City-ECQ-June-30-COVID-19.html

CNN. (2020, June 21). Philippines’ COVID-19 cases hit 30,000. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/21/PH-coronavirus-cases-updates.html

CNN. (2020, June 23). PH records highest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases at 1,150 new infections. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/23/PH-highest-single-day-rise-COVID-19-cases-.html

Lopez, M. L. (2020, June 29). PH gov’t: We are ‘winning’ fight against COVID-19. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/29/PH-winning-against-COVID-19-Roque-Galvez.html

CNN. (2020, June 30). Cebu City stays under strictest ECQ, Metro Manila still on GCQ. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/6/30/philippines-community-quarantine-post-june-30.html

July 2020

Yumol, D. T. (2020, July 1). Finance chief wants Metro Manila and CALABARZON region to be placed under MGCQ soon. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/1/Finance-chief-wants-Metro-Manila-and-CALABARZON-region-to-be-placed-under-MCGQ-soon.html

Manuel, P. (2020, July 4). COVID-19 cases may hit 61,000 to 95,000 by end-August – UP experts. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/4/UP-experts-projection-coronavirus-cases-end-August.html

Lopez, M. L. (2020, July 15). Duque backtracks, says PH ‘bent’ COVID-19 curve. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/15/Duque-successfully-flattened-curve-COVID-19.html

CNN. (2020, July 16). Flattening the curve of COVID-19 ‘did not continue’ due to reopening of economy, expanded testing — Palace. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/16/Philippines-flattening-the-curve-halted-economy-reopening-testing-Roque.html

CNN. (2020, July 16). COVID-19 cases in PH top 61,000 with 2,498 new infections. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/16/PH-coronavirus-cases-updates.html

CNN. (2020, July 15). Cebu City eases to modified ECQ, Metro Manila stays under GCQ. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/15/Cebu-City-MECQ-Metro-Manila-GCQ.html

CNN. (2020, July 30). PH sees highest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases, recoveries; case tally exceeds 89,000. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/30/PH-highest-single-day-covid-cases-recoveries.html

Lopez, M. L. (2020, July 31). No need for negative swab test to be declared as recovered patient – Dizon. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/31/no-negative-PCR-test-required-recovered-patient.html

DepEd (2020, July 21) President Duterte approves limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas starting 2021 https://www.deped.gov.ph/2020/07/21/president-duterte-approves-limited-face-to-face-classes-in-low-risk-areas-starting-2021/

August 2020

CNN. (2020, August 2). Philippines’ COVID-19 tally breaks 100,000 mark, as country sets new record high increase for 4th day. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/2/PH-coronavirus-cases-breach-100k.html

CNN. (2020, August 2). Metro Manila, 4 provinces to be placed under MECQ upon frontliners’ call for tighter restrictions. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/2/NCR-other-provinces-MECQ-August-4.html

CNN. (2020, August 11). Extended MECQ ‘highly unlikely’ with no new sources of cash aid funds – Roque. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/11/Metro-Manila-Rizal-Laguna-Cavite-Bulacan-MECQ-extension-cash-aid.html

Rola, A. (2020, August 12). Approval of Russia-made COVID-19 vaccine ‘good news,’ but local use depends on laws, clinical trials — Palace. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/12/Russia-Sputnik-V-coronavirus-vaccine-Philippines-laws-trials.html

Santos, E. (2020, August 14). DepEd moves opening of classes to October 5.https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/14/deped-class-opening-october-5.html

Lopez, M. L. (2020, August 17). Roque on 27M Filipinos reported jobless: ‘It could’ve been worse’. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/17/Harry-Roque-SWS-survey-45.5-percent-Pinoys-jobless.html

CNN. (2020, August 17). Metro Manila, 4 provinces to ease into GCQ starting Aug. 19. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/17/Metro-Manila-four-provinces-ease-into-GCQ.html

CNN. (2020, August 19). Metro Manila mayors agree on ‘unified’ curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m..https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/19/unified-curfew-Metro-Manila-FCQ-8-pm-5-am.html

CNN. (2020, August 26). PH COVID-19 tally exceeds 202,000, with over 5,000 new cases. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/26/PH-coronavirus-cases-over-202k.html

CNN. (2020, August 31). COVID-19 task force wants quarantine status reviewed monthly. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/8/31/Duterte-community-quarantine-status-announcement.html

CHAPTER 4

September 2020

U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. (2020, September 1). Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Manila (September 1, 2020). https://ph.usembassy.gov/health-alert-u-s-embassy-manila-september-1-2020/

CNN. (2020, September 6). PH flattens COVID-19 curve, but public urged not to be ‘overly excited’ — research group. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/9/6/PH-flattens-COVID-19-curve-UP-OCTA-research.html

CNN. (2020, September 11). Duterte signs ₱165.5-billion Bayanihan 2 law. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/9/11/Bayanihan-2-law-signed-covid-19-pandemic.html

CNN. (2020, September 19). LOOK: Crowd gathers at Manila Bay’s new ‘white beach’. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/9/19/manila-bay-white-beach-crowd.html

CNN. (2020, September 26). COVID-19 cases in PH surpass 300,000. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/9/26/ph-covid-19-cases-300-000.html

CNN. (2020, September 27). SWS survey reveals new record-high number of Filipino families experiencing hunger. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/9/27/SWS-involuntary-hunger-new-record-high-September-COVID.html

Rappler. (2020, September 28). Metro Manila still under GCQ until October 31. https://www.rappler.com/nation/coronavirus-quarantine-restrictions-october-2020

October 2020

Aguilar, K. (2020, August 14). DepEd moves opening of classes to October 5. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1321659/deped-opening-of-classes-in-public-schools-moved-to-october-5#:~:text=MANILA%2C%20Philippines%20%E2%80%94%20The%20opening%20of,Education%20(DepEd)%20announced%20Friday.

CNN. (2020, October 16). PH reports 3,139 new cases as total soars past 351,000. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/10/16/covid-19-cases-ph-351-000.html

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