The Philippines are the first country in Southeast Asia to totally isolate their capital city in a way similar to what happened a couple of months a go in Wuhan and now in Europe.
With the Philippines recording now over 140 coronavirus cases – including a dozen of deceased, the government decided on Thursday to lockdown Metro Manila with the suspension of any form of transportation to the town and the closure of most public facilities. Mass gatherings, all religious activities and classes from kindergarten to post-graduate studies are suspended until after the state of public emergency is lifted, according to the guidelines.
Several mall chains in Metro Manila announced their temporary closure starting today to help contain the spread of the coronavirus disease. Manila is locked down until April 14, according to the government.
Other provinces are now following to avoid further virus’ contamination.
Since last week-end, 17 local government units (LGUs) in eight provinces have followed suit. Among the LGUs that have imposed community or limited quarantine are the provinces of Antique, Batanes, Bohol, Capiz, Cebu, Iloilo, Oriental Mindoro and Siargao Islands; the cities of Borongan, Davao, Iloilo, Ormoc, Puerto Princesa and Zamboanga; and the municipalities of Coron and El Nido in Palawan and Nasipit in Agusan del Norte.
“The (infection) growth is exponential,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told local reporters in a Viber message yesterday, as he warned that at least 10,000 people would be affected if COVID-19 is not contained. Strict controls will be implemented with the government even threatening to arrest people who would not follow the rules.
Tourism will be strongly impacted. Even prior to the lockdown of Manila and the end of domestic travel to the capital, the government estimated that the Philippines would lose already PHP46 billion (US$960 million) between January and April as hotel occupancy was already down by 30% to 50% in February. The hope of cushioning collapsing international tourist arrivals with the promotion of domestic travel is now fading away in regard to the newly implemented quarantine measures.