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Novel coronavirus infections now at 7,777, DoH says

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THE Department of Health (DoH) reported 198 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections on Monday, bringing the total to 7,777.

Ten more patients died, raising the death toll to 511, it said in a bulletin. Seventy more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 932, it added.

Also yesterday, senators said they agreed with a government plan to allow the gradual reopening of certain industries after April 30, when the lockdown on some parts of Luzon island will be lifted amid a novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I agree with the proposal to allow industries in the construction, manufacturing and agricultural sectors to resume operations after April 30, subject to social distancing and DoH guidelines and protocols,” Senator Franklin M. Drilon said in a statement.

An inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet secretaries earlier identified sectors that will be allowed to operate in areas that will be placed under a more loose general community quarantine.

Category 1 industries will be allowed to fully open, while category sectors will be allowed to open 50% to 100%. Industries under the third category may operate with 50% of their workers on site and the rest at home.

Category 1 industries include agriculture, fishery, forestry, food manufacturing and its entire supply chain, while Category 2 sectors include electronics and export manufacturing, and e-commerce. Category 3 industries cover financial services and other non-leisure wholesale and retail trade.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on March 17 locked down the entire Luzon Island, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the outbreak. He extended this by two more weeks until April 30 and again until May 15, with some changes.

Mr. Drilon said he was concerned about the agriculture, manufacturing and construction sectors, whose workers are mostly daily wage earners.

“The workers in these sectors are mostly daily paid workers who had no income and were affected by the six-week lockdown,” he said.

Senator Ralph G. Recto agreed with a phased-in resumption of business operations, adding that employers should ensure protocols are in place to protect both workers and consumers.

“We will have to open the economy little by little,” he said in a separate statement, adding that establishments should observe social distancing and proper disinfecting measures.

Mr. Recto said the government should improve its ”health capability” as he expects consumers and investors to struggle with “confidence” issues.

The Department of Labor and Employment said on Sunday the COVID-19 outbreak had displaced more than 2 million workers nationwide.

“Expect higher unemployment knowing that the consumer would have confidence issues. Investors will adopt a wait and see attitude,” Mr. Recto said.

Meanwhile, the presidential palace said it was working on a master plan for areas that will undergo a general community quarantine after April 30.

“The guidelines will be approved today and this will be discussed tomorrow,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said at a briefing.

Under the general community quarantine, conditions will be relaxed while social distancing measures are maintained in the absence of a cure for the coronavirus disease 2019.

Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Antique, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Cebu province, Cebu City, Davao del Norte, Davao City and Davao de Oro will remain under the stricter enhanced community quarantine until May 15.

It would probably take as long as one-and-a-half years to develop and commercially release a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, Socorro Escalante, COVID-19 incident manager of the World Health Organization-Western Pacific Region, said at a briefing yesterday.

Research and development could take up to six months, she said, adding that the vaccine must first be tested on animals. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez





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