Understanding community quarantine
President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the entire island of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine effective yesterday.
First, what is the meaning of quarantine?
Quarantine is a state or place of isolation for a person (or animal) who may have been exposed to contagious diseases. The objective of isolation is to lower the chance that person or animal could transfer illnesses to others.
In practice, non-sick people maybe also quarantined as healthy looking people could still spread a pathogen without ever knowing they were carriers. This usually happens to people suspected of having contact with sick people or come from areas where a virus had been known to inflict many people.
For the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been recommended that individuals exhibiting symptoms to undergo voluntary self-quarantine and for everyone else to practice social distancing. Social distancing is a term used by epidemiologist to refer to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people to minimize or stop community transmission of the virus.
When many people participate in self-quarantine and social distancing, the number of COVID-19 cases will flattened and become more manageable. Health professionals call this “flattening the curve”.
In the Philippines, two terms for quarantine were being used in the presidential directive last Friday to put Metro Manila under quarantine. The two terms are general community quarantine and enhanced community quarantine.
Under general community quarantine, the movement of people is limited to accessing basic services and going to work where quarantine officers are present at border points. Metro Manila was put under this system by the President last Saturday.
Generally, under enhanced community quarantine, strict home quarantine is implemented in all households. This goes with transportation being suspended; provision for food and essential health services being regulated; and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures.
In clarifying the meaning of enhanced quarantine yesterday, Secretary Eduardo Año called it a lockout. Under the ordinary meaning of lockout, the exit and entry of individuals in the lockout area are generally not allowed at the borders of the quarantined community or at the entrance of a lockout building.
This version of lockout or enhance community quarantine is now carried out in the entire Luzon area beginning yesterday as announced by the president last Monday.
Under the enhanced quarantine system applied in Luzon, the government is strictly implementing home confinement. Only one in the family is allowed to go out to secure food, medicines, and other basic items. Mass gathering is prohibited and schools at all levels are closed. All mass transport is suspended.
There will be no work in government except for the police, army, and medical and emergency personnel. The private sector is encouraged to allow their workers to work at home. Some business establishments are allowed to operate like public markets, supermarkets, hospitals or clinics, pharmacies, refilling stations, and restaurants with food delivery services.
Manufacturing and processing plants of food products and medicine are allowed to operate. Banks, money transfers, and utilities supplying power and water, BPOs, and export oriented companies can also operate but with social distancing required at work. Air and sea travel will be halted from and to Luzon.
With the banning of public transport from their respective route, the government orders companies to provide transport services to their workers who are exempted from the ban. However, the government is planning to provide specific public vehicles, which will transport health workers when it was found out that many of them were stranded, as they have no means of transport.
Here in Cebu, the version we have as implemented by the local government units is community quarantine, which still allow people to move around and the use of public transport but with proper application of social distancing again.
Since 31 December 2019 and as of 17 March 2020, 180,159 cases of COVID-19 (in accordance with the applied case definitions and testing strategies in the affected countries) have been reported, including 7,103 deaths (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases)
The deaths have been reported from China (3,226), Italy (2,158), Iran (853), Spain (309), France (148), United States (85), South Korea (81), United Kingdom (55), Japan (28), Netherlands (24), Switzerland (14), Germany (13), Philippines (12), Iraq (9), San Marino (9), International conveyance in Japan (7), Sweden (7), Australia (5), Belgium (5), Indonesia (5), Algeria (4), Canada (4), Greece (4), Poland (4), Austria (3), India (3), Lebanon (3), Norway (3), Argentina (2), Bulgaria (2), Ecuador (2), Egypt (2), Ireland (2), Albania (1), Bahrain (1), Denmark (1), Guatemala (1), Guyana (1), Hungary (1), Luxembourg (1), Morocco (1), Panama (1), Sudan (1), Taiwan (1) and Thailand (1)./dbs
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