MANILA, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said on Friday that the health agency "fully supports" the decision of the Philippine government to impose "community quarantine" in Metro Manila in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease in the region of nearly 13 million people.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced in a national address late Thursday night a broad swath of measures, including "community quarantine" in Metro Manila in the next 30 days, to halt the spread of the virus.
The measures also included the suspension of land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila starting midnight of March 15 until April 14.
Duterte also said the government will implement "stringent social distancing measures" from March 12 to April 12, including the suspension of classes and work in the Executive Branch.
The Philippines has now 52 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including five deaths.
"The assessment now indicates that there are clustered cases in several locations or cities of Metro Manila, and you've seen from the number of cases that that is clear," Abeyasinghe said in an interview with local media, adding the Philippines is "at a very critical point in this outbreak."
"We believe firmly that the president acted in a timely manner with the necessary steps to contain this because we have to enforce social distancing now. If we don't enforce social distancing, we are looking at a very rapid and big outbreak, and so our assessment is that the president's actions are fully justified. We fully support it," he said.
"If we don't contain the spread, we're going to have many thousands of cases and that could result in several hundred deaths. So this is why it's important that all the government mechanisms are used to enforce this social distancing that we hope now will help to contain the spread where it is and to delay a further rapid scale of COVID-19 outbreak," he said.
Abeyasinghe stressed the need to protect the elderly population, saying 80 percent of the deaths come from the elderly group.
Of the 52 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, 21 are elderly with aged ranging from 60 to 88.