Davao City under “community quarantine;” a step away from lockdown, mayor says

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 March) — Mayor Sara Duterte has placed the entire Davao City under “community quarantine” on Sunday, eve of the 83rd Araw ng Dabaw commemoration, amid the growing number of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the country.

In her Executive Order No. 1 issued on March 15, Duterte said the local government here should take “aggressive and proactive” measures, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to rise.

Davao City Health Office personnel disinfects the motorpool of the city’s garbage collection trucks on 12 March 2020 as part of measures to prevent COVID-19 infection in the city. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

As of 9 p.m. on March 14, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide had risen to 111 from 64 the day before. The death toll had risen to eight from five a day earlier. Of the eight, one died in Mindanao, at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City. He was the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Mindanao.

Resolution 11 issued by the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) at the national level allows local governments to declare a “community quarantine under specific parameters.”

Resolution 11 provides that a city-wide quarantine is advised “when there are at least two positive COVID-19 cases belonging to different barangays in the same city.”

There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city as of March 15 but the mayor has repeatedly said she will not wait for a confirmed case before acting given the limitations in the city’s health care facilities.

In a statement posted on the FB page of the city government, the mayor said the city is facing a public health emergency on two fronts: COVID-19 “and the limitations of our health facilities to respond to a huge segment of our population getting infected with the coronavirus.”

“We do not have any confirmed cases as of the moment, but it will not be long before the reality of the disease will reach our doorsteps. And if many of us get sick, our city will be paralyzed and will be at a standstill, she said.

As of Friday night, there were 10 Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) at the state-run Southern Philippines Medical Center, five of them from Davao City, one from Davao del Sur, one from Davao Occidental and one Australian. On March 14, the Australian tested negative for COVID-19.

She urged the public to cooperate: “Do not leave Davao City. Stop unnecessary travels. Stay home; Distance yourself from everyone else. Do not go near other people; Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.”

She asked residents not to panic and not to hoard items because hoarding is no guarantee of protection from COVID-19 and is “a total waste of your money.”

She said the city government, in coordination with other government agencies and the private sector, “is preparing for the possible influx of Covid-19 positive patients.”

“If we stand together, strong and resilient will be able to overcome this health emergency,” the mayor said.

From community quarantine to lockdown

Community quarantine, she explained, is only one step away from a lockdown. A lockdown, she added, would restrict the movement of vehicles that will travel to and from the city.

The mayor said she will order a lockdown once a COVID-19 case is confirmed.

During the period of quarantine, the inspection of workers’ IDs would be required for non-Davao City residents who work in the city.

“I had talked with an infectious disease specialist who reached out to the city government to offer to assist us. We’ve been discussing this lockdown. She said lockdown is meant to control the spread of the disease, and if we are very strict, even if there is only one case who tests positive for COVID-19 we have to enforce a lockdown so that nobody can get inside, and avoid transporting the disease inside and outside the city,” she said.

Under the community quarantine rules, people should stay in their homes and may only come out to work, buy food or medicines, go to hospital or take out garbage; mass gatherings and classes from kindergarten to post-graduate studies are suspended until after the state of public emergency has been lifted; all religious activities are suspended; government work will not be disrupted; employees from other provinces may enter the city but necessary screening procedures must be followed; private companies must prepare and implement flexible work plan for their employees; require people to procure services and buy goods online from local suppliers; require online meetings and bank transactions; public transportation will be allowed; cargo deliveries will be allowed; and all other activities that may be determined in the future to be applicable in community quarantine.

She said the national government placed Manila on lockdown “to control land, air, and sea” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other parts of the country.

“So, what they did in Metro Manila is allowing us, LGUs, to prepare,” she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night announced Metro Manila would be placed under “community quarantine” effective March 15 and banned travel to and from Metro Manila by land, air and sea from March 15 to April 14 to prevent the spread of the disease.

The announcement, however, triggered an exodus, with those who can afford leaving Metro Manila for the provinces, some of whom could be potential virus carriers.

Passengers from Metro Manila were also monitored to have taken flights from Clark Airport to Davao City, prompting Mayor Duterte to issue EO 9 banning all flights from Clark Airport to Davao City.

The mayor urged Dabawenyos to stay inside their homes, and avoid taking trips outside the city, warning them they could no longer return here once a lockdown is declared.

“People need to understand we need to protect each other in the country. If this infection is already here, what we do is to make sure to contain the spread of the infection,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews with reports)