All domestic air, sea and land transport to and from Manila will be suspended from 15 March to 12 April, while entry travel restrictions to the Philippines have been imposed on all countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The Philippines will also implement stringent social distancing measures in Metro Manila, including a total ban on mass gatherings and the reduction of the government’s executive department to a skeleton staff as part of a month-long lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
The measures were announced by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night in an almost hour-long address to the nation as the Philippines raised its alert level to “Code Red, Sublevel 2”, the highest possible level. Duterte said the measures he was announcing formed a presidential executive order.
As well as the strict social distancing measures in the National Capital Region for a period of 30 days, a “community quarantine” will be imposed on all of Metro Manila. This provides for quarantine if there are two or more COVID-19 cases in any Barangay or Municipality. Provinces should also impose quarantine if there are more than two positive COVID-19 cases.
All classes in Metro Manila are suspended until 12 April and all planned or spontaneous mass gatherings are prohibited, with punishment under the penal code should the restriction be ignored. The government has called for flexible work arrangements in the private sector, with manufacturing and retail businesses encouraged to stay open but with social distancing and a minimal work force.
President Duterte said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would be called upon to keep order in case of any social disturbance but made it clear the situation was not martial law, stating, “Don’t be afraid of the PNP and AFP – they are there to help you.” He announced daily meetings of the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) and all relevant agencies, while the government will closely monitor and reassess the regulations after seven days. Duterte also announced that COVID-19 testing in the Philippines would be free.
President Duterte added that Chinese President Xi Jinping had reached out to offer assistance to the Philippines, and the country may be forced to take China up on its offer of help should the situation deteriorate.
The strict new measures come just two days after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The global reaction has included the cancellation of multiple events including some of the world’s biggest sporting leagues such as the NBA, MLB, multiple football games across Europe and the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne. Various famous names across the globe are emerging as COVID-19 positive, such as Hollywood legend Tom Hanks and his wife, both of whom are currently in Australia.
Duterte’s announcement also raises concerns over the feasibility of multiple gaming industry exhibitions and conferences planned for the coming months, including ICE Asia/SiGMA Manila in June, and PAGE and ASEAN in late July. ASEAN has already been delayed once from March to July and is facing a second delay.