Women exit from a disinfecting area after buying food at a public market in preparation for stricter lockdown measures in Quezon city on Monday. AP
Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent
President Rodrigo Duterte granted the demand of frontline health workers by reverting to a lockdown Metro Manila and four other areas to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic but not after berating them for "demeaning" the government instead of personally going to him to express their concerns.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday that metropolitan Manila, the capital region of more than 12 million people, and five densely populated provinces will revert to stricter quarantine restrictions for two weeks starting from Tuesday.
The move, which economic officials oppose, will again prohibit non-essential travel outside of homes. Duterte relaxed the country’s lockdown on June 1 in an effort to restart the stalled economy.
Rodrigo Duterte during a cabinet meeting in Manila. File
In a televised cabinet meeting held at Malacanang Palace on Monday, Duterte imposed a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) not only in Metro Manila but also over four provinces — Cavite, Laguna and Rizal in Southern Luzon as well as Bulacan in Central Luzon.
The reversion back to MECQ is to take effect from Aug.4 to 18 as the number of confirmed virus cases nationwide breached the 100,000 mark, hitting a total of 103,185 with 5,032 new infections.
Officials said the decision meant a return to stricter implementation of lockdown rules in the affected areas particularly a ban on public transport like passenger jeepneys. buses and motorised tricycles (rickshaws), limited movement of people especially the young and the elderly and closure anew of facilities like salons, barbershops and restaurants, requirement of quarantine passes and the establishment of more police and military checkpoints.
The MECQ was considered a compromise as more than 100 medical groups had called for the return of a complete lockdown or enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) amid protests from some Cabinet officials that it would again set back efforts to revive the economy and give jobs anew to Filipinos affected by the pandemic.
A man walks past closed shops in an empty street following the lockdown in in Manila. Reuters
Duterte said he was heeding the call of the frontliners, consisting of doctors and nurses and urged them not to lose hope as he pointed out: "We agreed that you are bone-weary."
"We are doing everything possible to alleviate the situation," he added as he appealed to the health workers not to quit, stressing the country has no one else to turn to in the midst of the pandemic. But in a surprising move that apparently caught cabinet members present and other concerned sectors, Duterte gave a severe tongue-lashing to the medical community and accused them of allegedly plotting a "revolution" against him and the government.
He also challenged them to launch such revolution, saying he was ready to unleash the full might of the government security forces especially the police and military to foil any attempt to oust him.
The president likewise accused the frontliners of "demeaning" him and the government by not bringing their concerns and problems personally to him instead of airing these to the media.
Health workers stretch as they take a break from performing COVID19 rapid tests in Manila. AP
The decision to revert Metro Manila and the four provinces was reached as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide breached the 100,000 mark, hitting a total of 103,185 with 5,032 new infections.
On Saturday, more than 60 medical groups, citing the increase in the number of health workers getting infected by the virus, proposed that "Mega Manila' be placed under ECQ for two weeks to enable auhorities to refine their pandemic control strategies.
Mega Manila is composed of the regions of Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan).
The aim is "to prioritise human resource allocation for the national health care system," according to the resolution posted on Twitter by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay.
The Philippines recorded three additional coronavirus deaths and 29 new cases, bringing the domestic tally of infections to 140, as authorities placed the entire capital Manila under "community quarantine" for about a month beginning on Sunday.
"Now, I believe it's right that we have a shame campaign because COVID-19 is no joke. Just imagine how many there are — let's not let it increase. The government will do everything to stop this pandemic," Undersecretary Martin Dino of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) told a radio interview.
In a statement, the Ministry stressed its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
The violating establishments were from Nadd Al Hammar, Port Seed and Naif, and were engaged in varied activities, including retail, air-conditioning installation, wholesale trading, textiles and fabrics.
A gang of six Asians were arrested and referred to criminal court, for robbing a Dubai company’s warehouse and stealing medical masks worth Dhs150,000.