By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter
THE government may classify areas affected by the coronavirus into zones as it adopts a “granular approach” to contain the pandemic that has infected more than 13,000 in the Philippines, the chief enforcer of the nation’s anti-COVID-19 measures said on Friday.
The approach would let the government rapidly respond to areas in need of help, anti-coronavirus tsar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said at a news briefing.
The Department of Health yesterday reported 163 new infections, bringing the total to 13,597.
The death toll rose to 857 after 11 more patients died, it said in a bulletin. Ninety-two more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 3,092, it added.
Of the 163 new cases, 91 came from Metro Manila, 56 from Central Visayas and 16 from the other regions, DoH said.
Under the plan, the government will classify places as either affected or economic areas. Affected areas will then be divided into zones.
The index or critical area will be closed off, Mr. Galvez said. “We will cordon it off and we will lock down affected areas or compounds.”
The vicinity of a critical area will become a containment area and adjacent places that are not affected heavily will become a buffer zone, he said.
Economic areas are those outside the buffer zone, Mr. Galvez said, adding that 50% to 100% of economic activities within the area may be restored.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the main Philippine island of Luzon in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. The so-called enhanced community quarantine was extended twice for the island until May 15 and thrice for Metro Manila and key cities and areas until the end of the month.
Metro Manila and the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales, and Laguna are under an altered lockdown, while the cities of Cebu and Mandaue remain under strict lockdown.
Meanwhile, Mr. Galvez said the government was preparing for a second wave of infections that could be triggered by Filipinos from overseas coming home.
Some overseas Filipino workers came from areas heavily affected by COVID-19 such as the United States, Italy, Spain and other parts of the Middle East, he said at the same briefing.
The virus has sickened 5.2 million and killed about 335,000 people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.
The US topped the list with 1.6 million cases and more than 96,000 deaths.
Mr. Galvez said Filipinos coming in from abroad would be tested once they arrive at the airports He said 600 of about 30,000 overseas Filipino who came home have tested positive for the virus.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III earlier claimed the country had entered a second wave of coronavirus infections, but corrected himself after drawing flak from lawmakers.