Lockdown looms over Iloilo City

The bustling area of Taft North in Mandurriao, Iloilo City is empty because of the social distancing and community quarantine imposed by the local government. (Photo courtesy of Leo Solinap)

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

Even without a confirmed case, the city government is planning to place the entire Iloilo City in a “lockdown” to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Mayor Jerry Treñas said the city government should act fast in responding to the increasing number of patients under investigation (PUI) for possible COVID-19 in the city.

“I am seriously considering a lockdown for Iloilo City. The number of PUMs (persons under monitoring) and PUIs are increasing very fast. We have no test kits and the non-availability of air transportation hinders our ability to send specimens to Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM),” he announced on his official Facebook account on Wednesday.

PUIs are patients with signs and symptoms and with travel history to infected areas. PUMs have no signs and symptoms but were potentially exposed in infected areas.

The Iloilo City Health Office (CHO) has already recorded 27 PUIs and 980 PUMs as of Wednesday morning.

Treñas said he has coordinated with provincial governors in the region and other stakeholders for the implementing rules of the proposed lockdown.

“I have already coordinated with governors of the different provinces, the Regional Director of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Army, Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and Department of Health (DOH). We are preparing the implementing rules, but we will make use of the rules for Metro Manila for essential businesses that should remain open during the period,” he said.

During the lockdown, the mayor said only essential establishments in Iloilo City such as supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open.

The mayor added that they are also tapping barangay day care centers in the city as mobile kitchens.

“During a lockdown, we will be only be opening essential establishments so that Ilonggos can still buy their daily needs, I am meeting with the supermarkets and pharmacies and they have assured the ongoing supply of goods,” he said.

The mayor also proposed to enforce a curfew in Iloilo City from 8 pm to 5 am.

On Tuesday, the Sangguniang Panlungsod approved the “Expanded Social Distancing Ordinance” mandating the implementation of curfew in the metro.

The curfew will be imposed on all residents of Iloilo City except those working with a work schedule within the curfew hours; persons on their way home from work; authorized government officials; essential skeletal workforce of the city and the province; persons delivering food and medicines; and persons travelling for medical and humanitarian reasons among others.

The curfew measure awaits Treñas’ approval before it can be implemented. He is mostly likely to sign it within this week.

The mayor also issued on Tuesday Executive Order No. 53 which limited the operations of shopping malls, shopping centers, department stores, and similar establishments from 11 am to 7pm while KTV, bars, resto bars, restaurants, food establishments, coffee shops, cocktail lounges and other similar establishments can operate until 8 pm.

Treñas appealed to Ilonggos that there is no need to panic as the city government is exhausting all efforts to respond to the current health emergency.

“This is for the best of everyone. I also hope that everyone will cooperate. The longer you will start cooperating the longer this virus will stop,” he said.

He also urged Ilonggos to cooperate and follow orders of the national and local agencies to prevent the spread of the virus.

“As one Ilonggo people, I need your help and cooperation for us to stop the chain of transmission of COVID-19. All the plans and strategies we have, if not observed and followed well by the people, they will all be rendered inutile. If this pandemic is our generation’s world war then we must fight, fight together as Ilonggos, and when I mean fight, let us stop the chain of transmission so that no one will be infected,” he furthered.

Iloilo City was placed under community quarantine through EO. No. 49, resulting in classes in all school levels suspended from March 16 to March 31, 2020.