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Tips for essential travel during the quarantine

What to expect and pecautions to take

Updated

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With the government’s enhanced community quarantine implemented until April 14, 2020, the smart thing to do is just stay at home.

If you’re a frontline worker (in healthcare and retail establishments like supermarkets, groceries, and pharmacies; banks, power, energy and telco services; water management and water-refilling stations; hygiene products and food production; and movers of food and non-food cargo), you are exempted and will be allowed unimpeded and unhampered mobility with or without an Inter-Agency Task Ford (IATF) ID. All you need to present is a company ID and/or a PRC (Professional Regulation Commission) ID.

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Essential travel

If you’re not on that list and must drive out, it has to be for something of essential or of vital importance like acquiring food and/or medicine, a significant bank errand, or a medical appointment or consultation for an urgent health issue.

Before heading out, here are a few things to keep in mind. The number-coding scheme has been lifted since March 17, 2020 until further notice. Only one person per household is allowed to go out. Bring a facemask and a bottle of disinfectant like alcogels or 70% isopropyl alcohol. If your LGU (local government unit) requires you to secure a quarantine pass, bring it. (If you don’t have one yet, get one from the Barangay Hall of your community.) Bring the following if applicable – ID cards (preferably company or gov’t issued), proof of residence, Certificate of Employment, other authorizations and certifications if available.

You can bring an OFW, Balikbayan, or a foreign national to the airport for a flight abroad as long as their departure is 24 hours from the time they leave their home/hotel. Pick up from the airport is also possible. On both occasions you must be able to show the passenger’s itinerary, whether it’s a photo or a hard copy. A sendoff/welcome party is not allowed to tag along. Only the driver and the person/s flying in/out will be allowed inside in the vehicle.

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There and back again

Once out, do not loiter. Go directly to your destination, finish your business and make a hasty return.

On the way, you will find checkpoints between cities, municipalities, towns, and even at the barangay and subdivision level. It will be manned by either barangay officials or members of the Philippine National Police and/or the Armed Forces of the Philippines. You’ll see barriers and mobile units of the agency on duty positioned accordingly.

Approaching checkpoints

Slow down as you approach. If it’s night time (though you really shouldn’t be out), turn down your lights. They will ask you why you’re out, your destination, check pertinent documents, and take your body temperature. Some checkpoints even have vehicle decontamination systems that spray disinfectant as you drive off. Needless to say, show them utmost courtesy. Say “Thank you very much Sir/Ma’am!” to the men and women in uniform you encounter before you go. After all, they’re out there, exposed to the elements and the dreaded virus, at great personal risk, to make sure we are safe 24/7.

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At your destination

Wear the facemask if you’re stepping out of the vehicle. Most groceries, supermarkets, stores, and pharmacies will require you to put one on before entering. Maintain physical distancing of at least one meter or 3.2 feet or more, if possible. Try to get everything done so that you can reduce your number of runs from as little as possible to never again.

Once done, use disinfectant before entering the vehicle so you at least eliminate the virus in your hands and don’t transfer them to the keyfob, steering wheel, gear shifter and other interior appointments you touch.

Once at home, leave your shoes by the entrance and disinfect all the items you’ve bought before bringing it inside the house. If you used reusable bags, wash them with your clothes. Plastics and paper bags should go straight into a trash liner. Spray over with disinfectant and then seal it.

Remove the clothes you’re wearing and put them in the laundry. If you can’t wash it yet, hang it outside the house, same with the reusable bags (preferably in a place far from people and where it can get plenty of sunshine). Take a long and hot bath after if you want to be sure.

Finally, it would be ideal if you can avoid driving again (at least until the end of the quarantine). In the words of Secretary Karlo Nograles, “If in doubt, DON’T”.

Any more questions?

If you have a unique situation that needs clarification, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has put up free-to-call hotlines. That’s 8405-5517 to 5524. It’s open from 7a.m. to 7p.m. Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekends. Other non-toll-free numbers are 7980-2387 and 7980-2390. Their mobile numbers 0917-8768535 and 0917-8768523 will be able to receive inquires via SMS any time, day or night. Regular charges apply.

Inquiring specifically about Covid-19? Call or text the Coronavirus disease 2019 hotline of the Department of Health (DOH) at 894 COVID (894-26843) and 1555 for Smart mobile users.

Text by Eric Tipan, Photos by Iñigo S. Roces

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