Semantics surrounding quarantine has caused a lot of confusion among the public. First, the government declared a lockdown on March 15, but wanted media to use the term “community quarantine.” A few days later, it changed the rules and ordered a stricter “enhanced community quarantine” or ECQ. The government decided to extend this ECQ until April 30. If the government extends this quarantine further and implements stricter rules on people’s movements, it will be called “extensive enhanced community quarantine” or EECQ.
The word quarantine comes from the Venetian word quarantena, meaning 40 days. In the Middle Ages, it was used to refer to the 40-day isolation of ships docking at the ports of Venice. At the time, Europe was being decimated by the Black Plague, and the ships’ isolation was meant to prevent the spread of disease in Venice. It proved to be a successful solution to containing outbreaks, and it is still used to this day to prevent the spread of diseases.
To quarantine someone means to put that person in isolation for a number of days until it can be determined that he is free of disease. The quarantine period for a person suspected of having COVID-19 is 14 days.
What is community quarantine and enhanced community quarantine?
Community quarantine is the isolation of a population within a community (e.g., a city, a region, or an entire country) to prevent the spread of disease.
Under the community quarantine, people were ordered to limit their movement and refrain from going out of their homes unless buying essential items such as food, water, and medicine. A curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. was also put in place.
Shortly after the imposition of the community quarantine in Metro Manila, the government decided it was not effective enough because people had not been observing proper physical distancing and curfew, so it replaced it with the enhanced community quarantine.
Under the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ, people are ordered to stay at home and not travel to other cities or barangays. The same curfew remains in place. People were also given home quarantine passes, which they can use to go out during the non-curfew hours to buy essential items.
In some cities like Paranaque, a coding scheme based on the quarantine pass number is being implemented to limit the number of people going out and forming crowds at the markets.
Much of the rules concerning the ECQ are provided in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. For most people, the following are the most relevant parts of the law.
- Limited operation of all forms of transportation
- Suspension of work or creation of alternative working arrangements (work from home)
- Ensuring the availability of food and medicine for all
- Enforcing measures against profiteering and hoarding of essential goods
- Implementation of a 30-day grace period for the payment of loans and rents during the period of quarantine
Cars are prohibited at checkpoints on national highways.
Many people did not seem to understand the scope and limitations of the ECQ. For example, the quarantine pass issued by the barangay to a household is only valid in that issuing barangay. You can be arrested for going out and crossing multiple barangays or cities just to do your grocery shopping.
Further, the quarantine pass is only valid during the non-curfew hours.
On April 15, the PNP’s Highway Patrol Group implemented vehicle inspections on national highways including EDSA, where hundreds of motorists were apprehended for violating the lockdown.
What is a lockdown and why does the government want to call it community quarantine?
A lockdown is the restriction of people’s movement within a community. A lockdown can be implemented for various reasons, such as to quell rebellions, uprisings, or civil disobedience. In the current situation, we are technically on a lockdown called community quarantine.
A community quarantine is a type of lockdown designed to contain an outbreak. Initially, various media organizations in the Philippines referred to the community quarantine as a lockdown, but the government urged them to use community quarantine instead, because it is the medical term for the restriction of movement to contain outbreaks.
What is a partial lockdown?
A “partial lockdown” could remain in effect once the enhanced community quarantine in the Philippines ends on April 30. But what exactly is a partial lockdown and how will it work?
It is still not clear what a partial lockdown would be, but according to former socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia, it will be a localized version of the current ECQ.
“I guess there will be some lockdown and probably it will be more localized, not like now which is the whole of Luzon, and some loosening up in some areas, that have low risk of COVID-19 contagion will be opened up, will be unquarantined,” Pernia told BusinessWorld on April 17. He has since resigned.
Businesses across Metro Manila have been requesting for a partial resumption of operations since the implementation of the Luzon-wide lockdown in March.
Among the hardest-hit sectors during the ECQ are the transportation, tourism, and retail industries.
One way that partial lockdown could work is by implementing mass rapid testing for COVID-19 so the government can also enforce a targeted quarantine for individuals and communities infected with the virus, while allowing certain sectors to continue operations.