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Now Reading: EASING UP CURBS | Duterte hesitates to re-open economy due to virus fears
EASING UP CURBS | Duterte hesitates to re-open economy due to virus fears
July 8, 2020 , 10:12 AM

By Manny Mogato, News5 editor-at-large

(July 8, 2020) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night balked at fully re-opening the Philippine economy as cases of coronavirus infections continued to spike, citing the experiences of other countries that lifted restrictions.

In a pre-recorded meeting with some Cabinet members broadcasted early on Wednesday morning, Duterte said the country cannot afford to risk an explosion of cases if he allows a total re-opening of the economy.

“If you open the entire Philippines and thousands upon thousands of new cases would happen, then we are in deep shit,” Duterte said.

“We have to be very circumspect in re-opening of the economy. Dahan-dahan lang. And if there is going to be a spike again, Baka maradi ang infected, at least young calibrated numbers of people we allowed to go out would be still manageable numbers.

As of July 7, the number of confirmed positive cases in the country has reached almost 48,000, overtaking Singapore with the second highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.

The number of active cases is almost the same number with Indonesia and the death toll has risen to more than 1,300.

The popular leader said the country has ran out of funds to subsidize the poor if it imposes another lockdown, which was blamed for ruining the economy in the first two quarters of this year.

The economy contracted for the first time in more than two decades when shops were closed, transportation were suspended and people were restricted to their homes for more than two months.

“Talagang mahirapan tayo,” he said. “Unang-una, wala tayong pera. Tayo hong pobre, we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium.”

He said the Philippines cannot follow the example of other countries which had opened up, like the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.

Duterte said many areas in the country remained under community quarantine because of rising cases but wider areas have a more relaxed restrictions to gradually re-opened the economy.

For instance, the government has already allow non-essential travel outside the country for tourism purposes and expanded services in hair salons and barbershops.

But some areas remained under lock down, like Cebu City where the health department observed a fasted case doubling time of less than seven days and higher utilization of health capacities.

For instance, hospitals wards and isolation rooms have at least 84 to 90 percent occupancy rate, health secretary Francisco Duque III said in the same meeting.

The National Task Force dealing with the pandemic, on the other hand, submitted to the president a second three-month campaign plan to defeat the coronavirus.

Retired general Carlito Galvez, the chief implementor of the plan, said the first phase from March to June has ended successfully, controlling the spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had predicted the Philippines would have 75,000 cases and 10,000 deaths during the first three months of the pandemic.

But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they were able to prevent the projections from happening due to timely intervention, like the lockdown imposed in mid-March.

The success of the second phase will largely depend on the cooperation of the people, local officials and other government agencies who will implement policies to improve testing, tracing and treatment of the disease as well as practice social distancing and the minimum health standards.

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