MANILA and nearby cities, where coronavirus cases are mostly concentrated, could revert to a stricter lockdown after June 15 if cases continue to surge, the presidential palace said on Tuesday.
“If the trend continues, either the general community quarantine will continue or we will go back to a modified enhanced community quarantine,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said at a news briefing in mixed English and Filipino.
An inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet secretaries will base their decision on data from the Department of Health, he added.
If cases continue to rise, “there’s a possibility that we won’t graduate to the next phase,” Mr. Roque said.
DoH reported 518 new infections yesterday, bringing the total to 22,992. The death toll rose to 1,071 after six more patients died, while 99 more patients have gotten well, raising the total recoveries to 4,736, it said in a bulletin.
Of the new cases, 280 results came out in the past three days while 238 came out late, the agency said.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked the main Philippine island of Luzon in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.
He extended the lockdown on the island twice and thrice for Metro Manila, where the lockdown has since been relaxed. Some businesses have been allowed to reopen with minimal workforce.
Metro Manila and Cebu were placed under a general community quarantine on June 1 along with Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Pangasinan, Albay, Mandaue City, Zamboanga City and Davao City.
Others were put under a more relaxed modified general community quarantine.
The task force will discuss later this week what should be the next step, Mr. Roque said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire earlier on Tuesday said there was a case backlog of about 1,500.
“It’s erratic owing to the different operational issues that each laboratory is facing,” she said at a news briefing.
She also traced the backlog to more samples from highly populated areas, adding that zoning guidelines should address the problem.
Some facilities have failed to meet the daily deadline for reporting because of the lack of encoders, Ms. Vergeire said.
Meanwhile, she said mothers who have given birth at health facilities will be tested for the coronavirus disease 2019 under new guidelines on expanded testing protocol that will be signed by Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III this week.
Pregnant women are among those most at risk of dying in case they get infected, aside from the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions.
Ms. Vergeire last week said the daily testing capacity had reached 10,000, allowing the expansion of the targeted testing to include patients without symptoms.
Anna Ong-Lim, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, said relatives, colleagues and health workers who got in contact with positive patients should be tested as well.
The virus has sickened 7.2 million and killed about 409,000 people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.
About 3.6 million people have recovered, it said. —Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas