THE WEEKLONG strict lockdown in Manila, the capital and nearby cities and provinces is unlikely to slow coronavirus infections in the long term, according to the Health department.

The stricter restrictions would only lower cases during the week until April 4, Alethea De Guzman, director of the Department of Health’s (DoH) Epidemiology bureau, told a televised news briefing on Monday.

“It’s possible for cases to rise again once the enhanced community quarantine is lifted,” she said in Filipino.

Coronavirus infections in the Philippines more than doubled in the past two weeks, Ms. De Guzman said.

The strict lockdown would go to waste and would have little to no effect if people failed to observe health protocols, get tested early and isolate themselves after developing symptoms, and cooperate with contact tracers, she added.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said the government would take into account the effect of the strict quarantine on hunger and state capacity to give cash aid.

“It is very sensitive because if we will only consider the aspect of lowering COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) numbers, more people might die from hunger,” he said at the same briefing in Filipino.

Meanwhile, the government still has more than P20 billion left in its anti-pandemic funds that could be used to subsidize Filipinos affected by the weeklong lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, the Budget department said.

It still has 23 billion in unused funds under the country’s second stimulus law, Budget Secretary Wendel A. Avisado told a televised news briefing.

He said the financial aid would be enough to cover 22.9 million low-income people for two weeks.

The amount is lower than what was given under the first stimulus law, which provided households at least P5,000 to P8,000 in cash aid, Mr. Avisado said. He declined to elaborate.

“We surmise that something worse can happen after one week so based on our projection, this will tide them up until the time that the government makes adjustments in the current state of quarantine,” he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte or his executive secretary would be the one to disclose the details of the aid, the Budget chief said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza