The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has the whole world in global quarantine. Here in the Philippines, as of March 21, 2020, there had been 230 confirmed cases of the COVID-1 with a 7-8%mortality rate higher than the global average, 18 deaths, and 8 recoveries.
The first recorded death in the country was that of a 38-year old Chinese national on January 30, and the first one from local transmission was a 62-year old local which was confirmed on March 5.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared the entire country in a state of calamity under Proclamation No. 929 on March 16. The directive trickled down to the local government units. On March 15, Cebu Province Governor Gwen Garcia declared the province of Cebu on a lockdown. Subsequently, on March 16, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo C. Labella declared the city in a state of general community quarantine. This quarantine will be in effect until 11:59PM of April 4, 2020.
Deserted public spaces in the city
Under the community quarantine, the residents of Cebu City are put in their homes and are only to come out for work, to go to medical centers, and to buy food, medicines and necessary supplies. There are visibly fewer people seen walking around in malls, community centers, and commercial areas since the people are highly discouraged to go to public areas unless they have important transactions or business.
Some who were fortunate enough to get a hold of face mask supplies which had started running low since early January are seen wearing them around, while those who are not are for the most part those who didn’t get the same stroke of luck.
The change in the night scene of the city has been remarkable. Since the limit on the operational hours of all malls, recreational centers, community centers, and other commercial areas was implemented, a drastic decrease in the number of people can be seen going out and about at night.
All establishments are to close at 8PM except medical centers and pharmacies, and other healthcare institutions. A liquor ban was implemented too the following day after the declaration of the quarantine to discourage social gatherings. These measures caused a marked difference in the lifestyle and consumption of Cebuanos in just a span of days; even the usually dense and loud Cebu Business Park and I.T. Park found some considerable amount of quiet.
Stricter measures in cleanliness and prevention of spread
Some malls like Ayala have started using temperature scanning devices on their entry points before this became an official mandate. Since then, all private establishments have implemented the same measure. There is also a noticeable spike in the number of hand soaps and sanitizers in their restrooms and all over their premises.
Health checkpoints were installed in all entry points in the City. These entry points are stationed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This made leaving and returning to the city a more rigorous, if not intimidating, process.
Health workers in hospitals and medical establishments obliged to wear proper protective equipment. Employees handling cadavers observe strict protocols on wearing protective equipment, Since they are front-liners in the combat against the disease which means their exposure to the contagious disease is way higher than the common citizen, they are expected to follow more stringent guidelines for their own safety.
House to house monitoring of individuals particularly documenting pregnant women, sick individuals, senior citizens and children under ten years old are conducted in all barangays as well. The spread of disease is more tangible in the densely populated outposts, so these measures are done more regularly in these areas.
Canceled and postponed events
All public gatherings like concerts, cockpit operations, and fiesta celebrations are canceled and/or postponed. Examinations and graduations are also included in the cancelations and postponements.
Classes in both public and private educational institutions in all levels are suspended until April 14, 2020. This effectively placed all students under home-schooling since all educational institutions started implementing distance learning and providing home assignments and projects.
Travel restrictions and empty streets
Sea ports within the jurisdiction of the City Government have been closed passenger arrivals except for cargo deliveries of essential goods. Those who were in transit while the order was given were allowed to dock but were subjected to quarantine protocols as prescribed by the Department of Health.
Jeeps and other modes of public transportation within the City have also begun the observation of the Department of Transportation Guidelines on social distancing and community quarantine. Passengers are to sit one seat apart, and the drivers are no longer allowed to fill the vacancy to more than half of the capacity of the vehicle including the driver themselves.
Temporary closures of roads were implemented. These measures are responsible for the near absence of pedestrians and better traffic flow in the city. But these have also caused a blow to the drivers and street hawker whose source of income heavily relies on the day-to-day bustle of the streets and highways.
Disrupted working conditions
A nine-hour curfew policy from 8:ooPM to 5:00 AM is to be observed during the entire period of community quarantine. A liquor ban, as mentioned earlier, is put in place too and is to be followed for the whole duration of the quarantine.
These directives have prompted several private entities to close down restaurants, bars, and shops that distribute alcohol and usually operate beyond 8PM. All private establishments have begun to adopt flexible work arrangements pursuant to DOLE Labor Advisory No. 9 since March 4. But some have not because the nature of their business renders them incapable of such arrangements; because of this, employees and business owners are severely impacted. People’s jobs and businesses are temporarily put on hold, directly affecting their livelihood.
It is a slightly different story for government workers. Since government work is ordered not to be disrupted, alternative work arrangements were provided. Almost all government workers and some employees from private companies have begun working from home.
The sunset clause of the Executive Order that put the entire city on community quarantine will be revoked at 11:59pm of April 14, 2020 or “unless extended should the circumstances and conditions warrant”. If the pandemic situation does not weather out by then, we can expect this to be more than just a one-month implementation.
On a larger perspective, we have just entered a global recession as these measures are also being adopted all over the world, hampering international economic activities. There is the question on when we can recover from the disease, and another on when we can recover from this worldwide economic blow.
But the biggest question for the common people remains the biggest elephant in the room: when do we get the life as we know it back?
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