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Police vow ‘absolute blockage,’ to arrest lockdown violators

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PHILSTAR/EDD GUMBAN

POLICE on Friday threatened to arrest people who ignore a month-long metro-wide lockdown that President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered on Thursday amid a new coronavirus outbreak, saying an “absolute blockage” would be enforced.

“Violators will be arrested and charged,” National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Debold M. Sinas told a news briefing streamed on Facebook. Violators may be charged with violating the quarantine law and Revised Penal Code, he added.

Policemen will be deployed starting midnight of March 15, he said.

Mr. Sinas said entrance and exit points within Metro Manila would be designated starting March 15. People who wish to leave the region had been given enough time, he added.

“Our plan is absolute blockage,” he said, adding that police would defer to any new guidelines issued by an inter-agency task force composed of Cabinet officials.

Mr. Sinas said police would recommend that people exempted from the ban pass through designated checkpoints. “That’s the purpose of quarantine,” he added.

Mr. Sinas declined to say how many policemen will be deployed per station but said the number would be “substantial.” Metro Manila has about 26,000 policemen, he said.

He said they expect traffic to worsen because of the checkpoints. “So you stay home while we are containing the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Policemen must wear protective equipment while on duty, he said.

Meanwhile, people from nearby cities and provinces employed in Metro Manila would be allowed entry amid a lockdown restricting land, domestic air and sea travels to and from the capital, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said on Friday.

Companies should issue IDs to their employees who must present these at certain checkpoints to be allowed entry, he told a news briefing at the presidential palace.

Employers may also opt to adopt alternative work arrangements such as telecommuting, or encourage their workers to rent a place within the National Capital Region, Mr. Lopez said.

Mr. Lopez also said the movement of goods would continue, while the manufacturing, retail and service sectors would continue to operate.

“Cargoes can move in and out of Metro Manila,” he said. “What’s important is there will be no business disruption and the supply of goods will be assured.”

He said restaurants and malls would remain open although operators should limit their customers to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in an advisory said it had lifted the number coding for both private and public vehicles starting Friday.

Mr. Duterte ordered a one-month halt to land, domestic air and sea travels to and from Metro Manila as part of government efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that has infected at least 52 people in the Philippines.

Mr. Duterte also suspended work in the Executive branch for a month from March 15, and extended class suspensions at all levels until April 12.

Companies should allow work-from-home and other flexible arrangements to prevent the spread of the virus, he said.Government agencies can form “skeletal workforces” to ensure unimpeded delivery of services, Mr. Duterte said.

Manufacturing, retail and service establishments should continue operating, he said.

The President made the announcement in a televised speech after meeting with an inter-agency task force against the contagion that has killed more than 4,600 people and sickened about 126,000 more worldwide, mostly in China.

Mr. Duterte said the alert level had been raised to code red sublevel 2, which means there have been community transmissions and increased infection cases beyond the government’s responding capacity.

Mass gatherings are prohibited, while the entire Metro Manila must undergo community quarantines.

Mr. Duterte said local governments outside the metro must undergo village, city and provincial quarantines when there are at least two coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases from two different households, villages and cities, respectively.

Mass public transport including the Light Rail Transit, Metro Rail Transit and Philippine National Railways would continue, the president said. The Transportation department will issue guidelines on social distancing, he said. — Genshen L. Espedido, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Arjay L. Balinbin





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