Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a “state of public health emergency” on Monday as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) started spreading in the country’s capital city Manila and its neighboring towns.

“The outbreak… constitutes an emergency that threatens national security, which requires a whole-of-government response,” the President said in a proclamation.

During his announcement on March 9, the number of infected people was only 20 but as of Wednesday morning, 13 additional cases were confirmed by health authorities, bringing the total to 33.

The health emergency enables the release of financial assistance to local governments for them to efficiently deal with the widening coronavirus outbreak. It also eases the rules in procuring necessary health resources such as testing kits, masks and protective gears.

With this, the Department of Trade and Industry immediately implemented price control measures on protective masks.

Meanwhile, several events, from conferences to sporting activities to festivals, have been canceled in efforts to contain the virus spread.

Classes in all levels in Metro Manila were also suspended from March 10 to 14. Other cities and towns have likewise suspended classes this week to accommodate the disinfection of classrooms.

Lawmakers are currently urging the Education department to postpone graduation rites this month to prevent any possible transmission.

The Philippine government said it is also considering lockdown and suspension of work at the municipal, city or provincial level if the situation continues to escalate.

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