MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police have started preparations for possible lockdown in the capital once health authorities raised Code Red sub-level 2, deploying thousands of troops as the coronavirus disease spreads, said News5 in their report.
General Archie Francisco Gamboa, the national police chief, said they have about 40,000 police officers in the capital region to help health authorities place on quarantine large number of people in a community to prevent the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 4,000 people worldwide, majority in China.
“On lockdown, you should get a signal from the DOH and certain protocols must be observed but the PNP will always be there,” Gamboa told journalists at a chance interview in Camp Crame.
“We will be utilizing the NCRPO which has a strength of around 28,000 and the PNP here in Camp Crame, to include national support units, is around 10,000. So more or less, we have 38,000 to 40,000 to utilize in case these things would come up.”
The military is also ready to assist the national police, deploying all its 1,500 soldiers assigned at the Joint Task Force in the national capital region to enforce any lockdown order, said First Lieutenant Arrianne Bichara, spokesman for the joint task force.
There are now 49 confirmed 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country after the health department reported 16 fresh cases on Wednesday. One had died and two have recovered, all Chinese tourists from Wuhan. Majority are Filipinos, including two from a virus-hit cruise ship placed on quarantine at a port in Yokohama last month.
Last week, the health department raised a Code Red sub-level 1 alert in all public and private hospitals to address the coronavirus disease after the first case of a local transmission involving a 62-year-old man who contracted the virus in a prayer room at a shopping mall in San Juan City.
The next day, the 59-year-old wide of the man contracted the disease. Both of them are now at a government facility but the man is at a critical condition due to his pre-existing conditions like diabetes, kidney injury and hypertension. His wife is in stable condition.
On Wednesday, national police spokesman Major-General Benigno Durana said a police officer who frequently visits the same prayer room was placed on a 14-day quarantine for showing symptoms of the disease and tested positive for the virus. Seven people in San Juan have been infected by the virus, according to Mayor Francis Zamora.
Two days after the Code Red sub-level 1 was raised, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an order placing the entire country under a state of national public emergency to mobilize resources to contain the coronavirus disease, and authorizing the health secretary to call on both the military and police to assist in implementing a lockdown on certain communities if the need arises.
Military chief General Felimon Santos Jr said soldiers stand ready to assist the national police if there will be a lockdown after the health department had identified several “hot zones” where the virus could possibly spread, including the prayer room in San Juan, a gated village in Cainta City in nearby eastern province of Rizal and a high-rise apartment at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
Santos said the military can bring in reinforcements from the nearby provinces if there is a need for a larger force to implement a lockdown. “It depends. We have forces in national capital regional and if needed, we can have more,” he added.
He said soldiers will set up road blocks and other measures to limit the movement of people when a lockdown is ordered.
“We are preparing for the possibility that AFP facilities and personnel may be tapped to provide assistance in the ‘whole of government’ approach in combatting COVID-19 that has raised alarms worldwide,” Santos added.
He said the military has started to implement contingency measures, like body temperature checking before entering key military camps, setting up of a testing center at AFP Medical Center, and enforcing a moratorium on sending AFP personnel to foreign travels except when necessary.
Durana said the PNP has also canceled all official travels especially to countries where there have reports of local and community transmission as the virus has infected more than 113,000 people in 110 countries worldwide.
He said all other activities, including the routine drills during flag raising and Zumba sessions have been suspended.
File Photo: Update.ph
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