Enhanced Community Quarantine and Social Distancing Guidelines for Management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

The Executive Secretary issued an undated Memorandum, providing for Stringent Social Distancing Measures and Further Guidelines for the Management of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation [Note: On 16 March 2020, Enhanced Community Quarantine has been declared in the NCR and the entire Luzon. See also: Primer on Enhanced Community Quarantine and Social Distancing in the Age of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19)]. Here are the salient points of the guidelines:

Is it a lockdown?

Some people call it a lockdown, but the term does not appear in the Memorandum. The Memorandum uses the term “community quarantine,” although one form of community quarantine — enhanced community quarantine — may be characterized as a lockdown. The types of community quarantine are discussed below. 

What are the types of “Community Quarantine”

There are two types of Community Quarantine, which is imposed over the ENTIRE NCR: (1) General community quarantine; and (2) Enhanced community quarantine.

What is “general community quarantine”?

General community quarantine is where:

  • movement of people is limited to accessing basic necessities and work; and
  • uniformed personnel and quarantine officers shall be present at border checkpoints.

In a general community quarantine:

a. ENTRY. Non-essential entry of people to the contained area is RESTRICTED, especially persons who are at high risk of being infected (i.e., those 60 years old and above; pregnant women; and those who are immunocompromised or with co-morbidities). The following are EXEMPTED from the restriction:

  • health workers
  • authorized government officials
  • those traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons
  • persons transiting to airport for travel abroad
  • persons providing basic services and public utilities
  • essential skeletal workforce

b. EXIT. Non-essential exit of people out of the contained area is also restricted, except:

  • health workers
  • authorized government officials
  • those traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons
  • those who were granted entry based on the above-mentioned exemptions — persons transiting to airport for travel abroad; persons providing basic services and public utilities; and essential skeletal workforce. [N.B. The distinction made for this group of individuals is interesting.]

All persons leaving the contained community must be checked for signs and symptoms (i.e., fever, respiratory symptoms, diarrhea), where the exiting person must:

  • (1) get the appropriate certification from a competent health authority (DOH, provincial/ city/ municipal health office;
  • (2) be endorsed by the health authority to the recipient LGU; 
  • (3) undergo a 14-day home-based quarantine; and 
  • (4) be monitored by the LGU.

It can be argued that the four-step procedure will apply only to those showing the symptoms. However, a plain reading of the Memorandum gives the impression that ALL persons, with or without symptoms, exiting the contained community must undergo the procedure. 

There is another exemption provided in another part of the Memorandum: WORKERS. This is discussed below.

What is “enhanced community quarantine”?

Enhanced community quarantine is where:

  • strict home quarantine is implemented in all households; 
  • transportation is suspended; 
  • provision for food and essential health services is regulated; and 
  • heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures.

When is the Memorandum effective and what is the duration?

The guidelines take effect on 00:00 a.m. of 15 March 2020 (a clearer designation, rather than “midnight of March 14”) and last until 00:00 a.m. of 14 April 2020. [Update: Note the ECQ extension until 15 May 2020.]

What area is covered by the guidelines?

It only covers the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila, consisting of 16 cities and 1 municipality, as follows:

  • Caloocan City
  • Las Piñas City
  • Makati City
  • Malabon City
  • Mandaluyong CIty
  • Manila City
  • Marikina City
  • Muntinlupa City
  • Navotas City
  • Parañaque City
  • Pasay City
  • Pasay City
  • Pasig City
  • Municipality of Pateros
  • Quezon City
  • San Juan City
  • Taguig City
  • Valenzuela City

To a certain extent, however, the Memorandum also touches on matters outside the NCR (school suspension). 

How long is the school suspension?

Classes and all school activities, in all levels, public or private, are suspended until 14 April 2020. However, there are two important directives contained in the memorandum:

  • The appropriate agencies and institutions shall provided adequate arrangements to allow students to continue fulfilling their requirements during the period.
  • Local Government Units (LGUs) shall ensure that students remain in their homes during the class suspension. How? The LGUs, with the assistance of the DILG, are required to come up with ways to implement the restriction. 

LGUs outside the NCR are advised to exercise sound discretion in suspending classes, provided the guidelines in the Memo are observed. 

What about “mass gatherings”?

ALL mass gatherings are PROHIBITED. 

What is a “mass gathering”?

A mass gathering is an event, whether planned or spontaneous, where the number of people attending the event could strain the planning and response resources of the city or municipality where the event will be held. The Memorandum does not specify the number of individuals involved in order for an activity to be characterized as a mass gathering, It includes:

  • movie screenings 
  • concerts
  • sporting events
  • other entertainment activities
  • community assemblies
  • non-essential work-related gatherings

Religious activities and essential work-related meetings may continue, so long as strict social distancing is maintained during the entirety of the event. 

What is “social distancing”?

Social distancing is the strict maintenance of a distance of at least one (1) meter radius between and among individuals. 

Which type of Community Quarantine is applicable in NCR?

The Memorandum does not say so. It simply directs the LGUs to abide by the directives of the Department of Health (DOH) and the DILG in the imposition of general and enhanced community quarantine in their respective jurisdictions. Involved agencies are also directed finalize and submit, to the DOH, their respective guidelines in the implementation of Community Quarantine by 14 March 2020, at 2:00 p.m.

Land, air and sea travel to and from the NCR.

Land, domestic air and domestic sea travel TO and FROM the NCR is RESTRICTED, with the following exceptions:

  1. Workers. All workers, whether employed or self-employed, will be PROVISIONALLY allowed to travel to and from the NCR. The provisional grant may be withdrawn if the Inter-Agency Task Force finds that public health considerations so warrant.
  2. Cargo. The movement of cargoes to and from the NCR shall be unhampered.
  3. Departing international passengers. All departing passengers are allowed transit through the NCR, provided that: (a) they show proof of confirmed INTERNATIONAL travel itinerary scheduled within 12 hours from entry; and (b) the outbound travel is not to a country where travel restrictions are in place. For item (b), or those traveling to countries with existing travel restrictions imposed by the Philippine government, the following exceptions apply: (i) Balik-Manggagawa Overseas Filipino Workers traveling to mainland China, except Hubei province, provided they sign a Declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved; and (ii) case-to-case exemptions granted by the DOH based on humanitarian considerations.

Mass public transport facilities (including the Light Rail Transits, the Metro Rail Transit, and the Philippine National Railways) shall continue in operation, subject to the limitations under the Memorandum. The Department of Transportation is also required to issue guidelines to ensure social distancing.

What is the rule on inbound international travel?

The rule governing inbound international flights is tricky.

  • It can be fairly implied that because inbound international passengers coming through Metro Manila airports (NAIA 1, 2, 3 and old domestic airport) are not covered by the exemptions, they are covered by the general ban.
  • However, the Memorandum provides that “inbound travelers from Iran and Italy are required to present a medical certificate issued by competent medical authorities,” which gives the impression that inbound international flights are allowed, with the requirement that those coming from Iran and Italy must present a medical certificate.
  • We need to see a clarification on the rule affecting inbound international flights.

What happens to those who violate the guidelines?

Violators shall be meted with appropriate action, including the filing of appropriate charges by the Department of Justice. The Philippine National Police (PNP) has announced that they will arrest those who violate the guidelines.

What is the basis of the Memorandum?

It is based on the following:

  • The recommendations contained in Joint Resolution Nos. 11 and 12 (series of 2020) of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infections Diseases;
  • Proclamation No. 922 (series of 2020), declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines by reason of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19; and 

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