Coronavirus outbreak

Duterte looks at imposing curfew in Metro Manila as lockdown begins

Philippine soldiers awaiting deployment at checkpoints yesterday in Valenzuela, south of Manila, as Metro Manila began a month-long lockdown amid a growing number of local Covid-19 cases.
Philippine soldiers awaiting deployment at checkpoints yesterday in Valenzuela, south of Manila, as Metro Manila began a month-long lockdown amid a growing number of local Covid-19 cases.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA • Metro Manila, a region of 12 million people, entered a month-long lockdown yesterday as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte considers a plan to impose a curfew in the area to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Hours after Metropolitan Manila Development Authority general manager Jose Arturo Garcia Jr said last Saturday that an 8pm to 5am curfew would be implemented from yesterday until April 14, Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President had yet to approve the measure.

The city will go into lockdown during this period, with schools and government offices largely shut, as the number of local Covid-19 cases climbed in the past week.

"Local government units can impose curfew within their territories if an ordinance is passed imposing it," Mr Panelo said in a mobile-phone message. A recommendation by mayors to impose a curfew in Metro Manila "is subject to the approval of the President". The President has yet to consider it, he said.

The total number of confirmed cases in the country has risen to 140 and 12 people have died after contracting the virus.

The latest deaths include an 86-year-old American male with travel history from the United States and South Korea, the Department of Health said in an advisory. The other three are Filipinos.

Officials said they are also limiting services at the state-run Philippine Heart Centre after 13 employees were exposed to an infected person.

Mr Duterte, who tested negative for the coronavirus, is shutting malls and banning movie screenings and concerts as part of the measures. About 20,000 police officers were deployed to checkpoints at borders, though vehicles were still allowed to pass, ABS-CBN News reported yesterday.

Other areas in the Philippines are also enforcing travel restrictions, including the provinces of Bohol and Oriental Mindoro, and Davao City and the municipality of Coron in Palawan, CNN Philippines reported.

Photos on social media showed crowds lining up at bus stations, while supermarkets in the capital were emptied of groceries as shoppers hoarded goods amid the uncertainty.

While malls will be shut, supermarkets, hardware stores, pharmacies, banks and health clinics inside them will remain open, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a mobile-phone message last Saturday.

A prohibition on mass gatherings came into effect yesterday.

The government also suspended casino and gambling operations in Manila, the regulator said in a statement yesterday.

For offshore gaming companies, a minimum number of employees will be allowed at the workplace while the rest will be quarantined in their homes. Religious activities have been allowed to continue.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2020, with the headline 'Duterte looks at imposing curfew in Metro Manila as lockdown begins'. Print Edition | Subscribe