A Philippine policeman inspects a passenger jeepney in Manila on March 15. President Rodrigo Duterte suspended public transport across the country’s main island Luzon for nearly a month on March 16 to combat the spread of Covid-15. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
A Jesuit priest in the Philippines has appealed to the public for help in providing transport for health workers hit by a suspension to the transport network on the country’s main and most populous island.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the whole of Luzon including the National Capital Region (NCR) under “enhanced lockdown” and canceled both government and private work.
The lockdown included suspending public transport from March 17 until April 13.
Luzon is the Philippines’ largest island and is home to more than 50 million people, or about half the country’s population.
Duterte imposed strict home quarantines in all households on March 16, limiting movement to those seeking basic necessities and services.
“Only those with establishments providing basic necessities and such activities related to food and medicine shall be open,” according to Duterte’s order.
These include markets, supermarkets, convenience stores, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies as well as power, energy, water and telecommunications suppliers and facilities.
Domestic and international flights are also canceled. According to a Department of Transportation directive, all subways are closed, as are operations of taxis, jeepneys, buses and all other public transport.
Only one person per household is allowed outside their home to buy basic necessities.
“The president’s ultimate goal is to save ourselves from ourselves,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a television interview.
Media people can travel within the quarantine area provided they obtain a special pass within 72 hours of the lockdown order being issued.
The shutdown of the transport system, however, will prevent health workers from getting to work in hospitals and clinics, said Father Manoling Francisco, a Jesuit composer and theologian who has been raising funds to buy face masks and hand sanitizers for doctors and health workers in hospitals.
As a result, the priest has issued a public appeal asking people with vehicles to give health workers a ride to and from their workplaces.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has urged people to follow the strict government instructions and procedures in order to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Bishop Arturo M. Bastes, retired chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Mission, said that “the faithful, in these trying times, must practice generosity. This is a time not to be individualistic but to share what we have with the poor.”
According to the World Health Organization, 140 people had been infected by Covid-19 in the Philippines as of March 17, resulting in a dozen deaths.