President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday placed the entire country under a state of calamity due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The state of calamity, the President said, will last for six months, unless earlier lifted or extended.
“(This) declaration will, among others, afford the national government, as well as local government units, ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund, in their
disaster preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to provide basic services to the affected population,” he said in Proclamation No. 929.
The President also issued Memorandum Circular No. 77 upholding the price freeze on emergency medicines and medical supplies as well as the suggested retail prices on basic agricultural and fishery commodities in Metro Manila.
The declaration came as the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 45 new cases, which brought to 187 the number of COVID-19 cases as of noon Tuesday. Two new deaths were reported, bringing the number of fatalities to 14.
Actor Christopher de Leon confirmed in an Instagram post that he tested positive for the disease. He did not have any known contact with any confirmed patient nor recent travel history.
The DOH also reported the recovery of a 31-year-old male, one of the repatriates from the COVID-19-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked in Yokohama, Japan.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the bed capacity of health care facilities in Metro Manila is being surpassed by the number of patients showing signs and symptoms of the disease seeking medical attention.
“We are admitting that our hospitals especially here in Metro Manila are filling up because of the influx of people,” she said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the isolation beds in public hospitals numbering 935 will increase, after he ordered the 10 percent of beds normally given to private patients would be converted to isolation beds.
Vergeire said people who have mild symptoms or not showing any symptoms at all should undergo home quarantine and avoid flocking to hospitals.
“The risk of transmission among the population would increase if [people with] mild [symptoms or those who are] asymptomatic will also be waiting in hospitals where there are possible COVID-19 cases,” she said.
She also said the country’s testing capacity to determine whether a person is infected or not was still limited.
However, she guaranteed that more test kits are arriving from Japan and China on top of the batch that arrived from South Korea on Saturday.
Members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s family were tested for COV-19, his constant companion Senator Christopher Go said Tuesday.
Swab tests were conducted on the President’s partner Honeylet Avanceña, and his children Paolo, Sebastian, and Veronica in their hometown of Davao City, Go said.
Taguig City Mayor Lino Edgardo Cayetano on Tuesday ordered a city-wide lockdown for the safety of residents and stakeholders and to help the government effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, only delivery of basic goods and supplies will be allowed to enter Taguig.
“The local government assures the people of Taguig that they will be taken care of. Supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores and banks shall remain open. We are working to help small groceries and sari-sari stores to have a working supply chain. They will be allowed to operate under strict barangay monitoring and social distancing rules,” Cayetano said.
The city government will also distribute backpack sprayers and disinfectants to all barangays for sanitation.
Taguig City will also release aid to barangay and community leaders to help them fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cayetano earlier confirmed that there were three new COVID-19 patients in Taguig bringing the total number of cases in the city to four.
“All four cases in Taguig are in hospitals where they are isolated and being treated,” he said.
An official of the House of Representatives on Tuesday confirmed that another employee of the chamber was tested positive for COVID-19.
House Secretary General Jose Luis Montales said the employee holds office at the House’s Printing Service.
“He last reported for work on March 5. He went on leave on March 6, and was admitted to the hospital on March 7,” Montales said in a statement.
“The diagnosis was dengue. The doctors later tested him for COVID-19 on March 12 and 14, and the results just came out today,” Montales added.
Earlier, an employee of the House from the same office was tested positive for the disease. He died last Sunday.
The House has suspended wok until April 12.
In a related development, Quezon City Rep. Precious Castelo appealed to airline, shipping and other transportation companies to open their offices for rebooking or cancellation of tickets or trips of people affected by the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
Castelo made the appeal after receiving complaints from several constituents that they went to the Philippine Airlines office at Eton Centris mall early Tuesday morning only to find out that it was closed without warning.
Castelo said airline offices have a justifiable reason to open their offices to accommodate thousands of passengers affected by President Duterte’s enhanced community quarantine order.
Duque on Tuesday also said Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay tested negative for COVID-19.
Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri tested positive and was on home quarantine.
Duque said it is important that the senator completes his home quarantine.
“He has to finish the (remaining) 10 days. What is important, he has no symptoms,” Duque said.