Philippines ‘not under martial law’ as troops ready for coronavirus lockdown in Manila

Curfews are in place in Manila’s metropolitan region and public health measures have been increased ahead of the coronavirus lockdown. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Philippines ‘not under martial law’ as troops ready for coronavirus lockdown in Manila

  • Coronavirus lockdown will be in place from Sunday to April 14
  • 111 COVID-19 infections reported in the Philippines, 8 fatalities

MANILA: Curfews are in place in some parts of the Philippines’ capital region, Metro Manila, and public health measures have been increased ahead of the coronavirus lockdown, starting Sunday, amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

The Department of Health reported 111 coronavirus cases on Saturday, with the tally doubling overnight. Three more persons have succumbed to the disease, increasing the number of fatalities to eight.

“Our frontline health workers and medical personnel are risking their safety to respond to the needs of the public, all we ask is for you to do your part,” Health Secretary Duque III said as he requested cooperation from members of the public.

He added: “The success of our measures to contain Covid-19 is hinged on your participation. We will get through this together.”

Curfew are already in place in some parts of Metro Manila between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Metro Manila comprises 16 cities — the capital, Quezon City, Makati, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Taguig, Pasay, Pasig, Marikina, San Juan, Caloocan, Navotas, Malabon, Valenzuela — and the municipality of Pateros. The region’s population is over 12.8 million.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday evening announced a “community quarantine” of the region, with land, domestic air and sea travel to be suspended from Sunday until April 14.

A task force composed of police, military and coast guard personnel and firefighters has been formed to ensure the orderly implementation of the Metro Manila lockdown.

“We are fighting a common but relatively unknown enemy, a dangerous and lethal virus known as Covid-19,” Justice Secretary Menardo 

Guevarra said on Saturday, adding that the military will be on the streets “not to sow fear but to protect” residents.

“We are not in a state of martial law,” he stressed, adding: “So let us please cooperate and help each other until this public health emergency is over.”

The lockdown includes bans on mass gatherings such as screenings, concerts, sporting events, community assemblies and non-essential work-related gatherings.

Schools have been suspended until April 14.

Further movement restrictions, especially to members of risk groups, may be imposed by municipalities.


Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

Updated 17 min 21 sec ago

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

  • The 1884 painting, titled the ‘Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,’ was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam
  • The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million

THE HAGUE: Thieves stole a painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh early Monday in a daring heist from a museum that was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 1884 painting, titled the “Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,” was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam.
The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million ($6.6 million).
“I am shocked and unbelievably annoyed this theft has happened,” Jan Rudolph de Lorm, one of the museum’s directors, told a press conference.
“Art is there to be seen, to be enjoyed, to inspire and to bring solace, particularly in these troubled times in which we find ourselves,” De Lorm said.
The theft happened on what would have been the 167th birthday of the brilliant yet troubled artist.
“Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring” comes from relatively early on in Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist paintings such as “Sunflowers” and his vivid self-portraits.
The painting was on loan from its owners, the Groninger Museum in the north of the Netherlands, as part of an exhibition.
The Singer Laren museum closed two weeks ago in compliance with Dutch government measures aimed at tackling the spread of COVID-19.
Dutch police said the criminals had broken in at around 3:15 am (0115 GMT).
“Police officers immediately rushed to the scene but the perpetrators had escaped,” Dutch police said in a statement, appealing for witnesses.
The painting has an estimated value of between one million and six million euros, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand said.
“The hunt is on,” said Brand, who is known for recovering stolen Nazi art including “Hitler’s Horses.”
It was the third time the famous Dutch master’s works have been targeted in the Netherlands since the 1990s, Brand said.
“To me this looks like the work of a copycat,” Brand told AFP, adding the modus operandi was similar to the other two cases.
“The thieves only went for a Van Gogh, while there are other works too in the museum,” he said.
Asked whether he thought there was enough security at the museum Brand said “it is very difficult to say.”
“Securing a painting is very difficult. It is something that has to be displayed for people to see,” he said.
The museum’s 3,000 pieces also include works by Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian and Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, as well as a casting of “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin.
Singer Laren was targeted in 2007 when thieves stole a number of castings from its gardens including “The Thinker,” Dutch media reports said. The castings were recovered two days later.
Two Van Gogh masterpieces went back on display at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum last year after they were stolen from the museum in 2002.
The paintings — the 1882 ” View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and the 1884/5 “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” — were recovered by Italian investigators in September 2016 when they raided a home belonging to an infamous mafia drug baron near Naples.
Previously three Van Goghs that were stolen from the Noordbrabants Museum in 1990 later resurfaced when a notorious Dutch criminal made a deal with prosecutors.