A woman and a child wearing protective masks play a game in a park in Manila, Philippines. Reuters
A nine-hour night curfew from 8:00pm to 5:00am daily will be imposed starting on Sunday to coincide with the month-long "community quarantine" or "lockdown" declared by President Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte from March 15 to April 14 in Metro Mania to prevent the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
Jojo Garcia, the general manager of the Metro Mania Development Authority (MMDA), announced that, aside from the curfew, the 17 Metro Manila mayors also unanimouly approved during their meeting on Saturday a resolution calling for the closure of all shopping centers and malls.
A man wearing a protective mask walks past a sign at a basketball court that announces it's temporary closure as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus in Quezon city. AP
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) said that the sixth death from the dreaded ailment was reported to be male who had no history of travel abroad and a resident of Lanao del Norte in Mindanao.
The total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country also stood at 64 as of Saturday, with 40 of them infected through local transmission, the DOH said.
Metropolitan Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas has threatened to arrest people who don't comply with the restrictions. Thousands of police will be deployed and checkpoints will be set up in entryways to metropolitan Manila, he said.
But a prominent human rights lawyer, Jose Manuel Diokno, said law enforcers could not arrest anyone for resisting emergency health restrictions.
Under Philippine law, police can arrest people without a warrant only if they have committed or are about to commit a crime, Diokno said.
Officials said the main aim is to limit movement in the 17 cities and town that compose Metro Manila, also known as the National Capital Region, with a total population of close to 13 million people.
This was amplified by Secretary Eduardo Ano of the Department of the Interior and Local Government during a media briefing following the meeting of the Metro Manila mayors hosted by Makati City.
A young boy and girl hold hands as they arrive with their parents to try to catch a ride at the Cubao bus terminal in Manila. AP
"Limit your movements. The bottomline is people are advised to stay home if you have nothing essential to go out and just stay at home," Ano, a retired general who headed the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said in a mix of Filipino and English.
The meeting among Metro Manila mayors immediately followed the Duterte declaration of a "community quarantine" in Metro Manila which, he admitted, was similar to a "lockdown" in a nationally televised address he delivered late on Thursday night on the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.
Highlighting the Duterte declaration on the 30-day lockdown was a ban on domestic air and sea travel to and from the national capital region as well as "planned or spontaneous" mass gathering as well as the extension of the suspension of classes to April 12.
Alarm has been raised over the announcement that the Philippine National Police (PNP) would check up checkpoints in coordination with the military to ensure the effective implementation of the lockdown.
But cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles assured there would be no disruption in the supply of food and agriculture commodities. He also urged the public not to resort to panic-buying and hoarding, saying there would be an ample supply of goods in Metro Manila.
"The people should not worry," Nograles said. "There will be no depletion of commodities because the delivery of supplies will continue."
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said vehicles transporting food and non-food items would be allowed to move in and out of Metro Manila to ensure there is no disruption especially of essential goods.
Lopez pointed out: "Workers can also move in and out but on condition that they have to show identification cards or proof of employment in Metro Manila."
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