PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte was unlikely to impose a total lockdown to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, his spokesman said on Monday.
The government was considering a modified enhanced community quarantine given that not all parts of the country are COVID-19 hotspots, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said at a news briefing.
The state would have to balance a potential spike in infections once the lockdown is relaxed after April 30 and business and workers’ interests, he said.
Mr. Duterte would probably decide this week after he meets with health experts and an inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet officials, Mr. Roque said.
The President locked down the entire island of Luzon on March 17, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the outbreak that has sickened 6,459 people in the Philippines.
Mr. Duterte later extended the quarantine by two more weeks until April 30. People should stay at home except to buy food and other basic items, he said.
The Department of Health (DoH) yesterday reported 200 new infections and 19 more deaths, raising the death toll to 428. Forty-one more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 613, it said in a bulletin.
Worldwide, 2.4 million have been infected with the virus, with more than 165,000 deaths, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.
Mr. Roque said another option is extending the lockdown again but the government can’t support jobless workers longer given limited funds.
“His decision will be based on finding a balance between the state’s obligation to protect the health of the public and people’s right to work,” he said in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said 55,465 people have been tested for COVID-19.
The distribution of test kits developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health was being processed, she added.
The Philippine General Hospital, Baguio General Hospital, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Southern Philippines Medical Center, Medical City and Medical Center will receive 1,300 test kits for 26,000 COVID-19 samples.
Ms. Vergeire also said eight quarantine facilities in the National Capital Region and Region 3 have started accepting patients who tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal at Manila’s Pier 15, which was turned into a COVID-19 treatment facility, will open on Tuesday, the Philippine Coast Guard said in a separate statement.
It has 211 cubicles that can accommodate patients with mild, advanced, and severe infections, it said. – Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas