By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter
The mayors of Manila, the capital and nearby cities on Thursday night approved a two-week curfew that will start on March 15 to curb a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.
The curfew will run for seven hours starting at 10 p.m., Benjamin de Castro Abalos, Jr., who heads the Metro Manila Development Authority, said by telephone.
“It will be very intensive in the sense that we will implement massive testing, more contact-tracing, quarantine and coordinated granular lockdowns,” he added.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 3,749 coronavirus infections on Thursday — the highest daily tally since September — bringing the total to 607,048.
The number was the highest since Sept. 19, when the agency reported 3,962 cases, according to past health bulletins.
The death toll rose 12,608 after 63 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 406 to 546,671, it said in a bulletin.
There were 47,769 active cases, 91.6% of which were mild, 4.4% did not show symptoms, 1.6% were critical, 1.6% were severe and 0.77% were moderate.
The Health department said nine duplicates had been removed from the tally, while 24 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Four laboratories failed to submit data on Mar. 10.
Mr. Abalos said 360 policemen would be deployed on the streets of the capital region to enforce social distancing. The cops will also serve as contact-tracing officers.
Business operations would still be allowed, he added.
The curfew would be lifted once the cases subside, Mr. Abalos said. “Whatever health experts would tell mayors, we will follow.”
About 8.6 million Filipinos have been tested as of Mar. 9, according to DoH’s tracker website.
The coronavirus has sickened about 118.7 million and killed more than 2.6 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.
About 94.3 million people have recovered, it said.
Meanwhile, more than 9,000 soldiers have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as of March 10, the Defense department said on Thursday.
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said 9,043 soldiers had been inoculated with CoronaVac shots donated by China. The military received 100,000 out of the 600,000 shots made by Sinovac BioTech Ltd. that the government took delivery on Feb. 28.
The Philppine military is seeking to vaccinate 25,000 more troops in the coming days, he told a televised news briefing.
Mr. Lorenzana said a number of soldiers had initially refused to get vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine but eventually decided to get the shots amid a fresh spike in coronavirus infections in the country.
“Fewer soldiers are declining to get vaccinated,” he said in Filipino. “If infections continue to soar in the coming days, maybe no one will refuse the shots anymore.”
Military spokesman Maj. Gen Edgard A. Arevalo earlier said vaccination is mandatory for soldiers, but they may choose a different brand at their own expense. The Armed Forces had been tapped to help distribute vaccines nationwide.
The Philippine government has been unable to vaccinate at least 250,000 Filipinos daily to meet its 50-million goal this year due to supply problems, Vivencio B. Dizon, the country’s deputy chief enforcer of anti-coronavirus efforts, said on Wednesday.
The government could hit the daily goal of 250,000 to 300,000 vaccinations once the bulk of the vaccines arrive, he added.
The government had only inoculated about 36,000 people as of March 7 since it started its vaccination drive this month, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque, Jr. said on Tuesday.
Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. earlier said the main volume of vaccines bought from drugmakers and secured under a global initiative for equal access would arrive by the third and fourth quarters.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has said Manila was having difficulty getting more vaccine supplies, citing problems in the global supply chain. Rich countries were being prioritized by drugmakers, he said.
With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $9,471, the Philippines ranked 76th among the poorest countries last year.
But poorer nations such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Còte d’Ivoire, with a GDP per capita of $5,028, $4,664 and $4,457, respectively, got their vaccines before the Philippines, according to the website Our World in Data.
The Chinese government earlier donated 600,000 doses of CoronaVac made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
The Philippines on March 4 also took delivery of 487,200 vials of the vaccine developed by British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc. Almost 40,000 more doses arrived on March 7.\
The vaccine doses were secured under the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX).
A million more doses of CoronaVac are expected to arrive this month under a P700-million purchase deal with Sinovac.
Manila will take delivery of about 117,000 vials of the vaccine developed by Pfizer, Inc. under COVAX by April, Mr. Dizon said.
The first batch of Pfizer doses was due to arrive in February but was delayed after the government failed to submit documents freeing the drugmaker from potential lawsuits.
Mr. Dizon said the government seeks to vaccinate about 3.5 million health workers by May. — with Vann Marlo M. Villegas