Philippine Govt Urges People to Stay Home as COVID-19 Infections Top 8,000

Marielle Lucenio and Basilio Sepe
Manila
2021-03-22
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Philippine Govt Urges People to Stay Home as COVID-19 Infections Top 8,000 Philippine police check a taxi as they enforce COVID-19 travel restrictions in the outskirts of Metro Manila, March 22, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The Philippine president’s spokesman called on people to use the “tried-and-tested formula” and stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, as officials imposed two-week soft lockdowns in the Manila area and four nearby provinces on Monday.

The health department the same day reported an all-time daily high of 8,019 new coronavirus infections, which brought to 671,792 cases the total number of cases nationwide. It also reported four deaths, bringing the national toll to 12,972. 

The new general community quarantines means that Metro Manila, an urban region of 12 million people, along with heavily populated suburbs in the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, will be on soft lockdowns. 

“We are estimating that with these measures and at the end of the two-week period that the numbers would drop by at least 25 percent,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on ANC Television. “Because we all know that the tried-and-tested formula for preventing the increase in the cases of COVID is to stay home.”

The quarantine goes into effect as the largely Catholic country prepares for Holy Week beginning March 28, the traditional holiday when millions of devotees return to their home provinces. 

“[D]espite the fact that we have basically allowed people to work, we are also appealing to everyone it is Holy Week, where traditionally we have a long holiday anyway. So, if you are not going out because of an essential activity such as to get the basics of food and water or to work, you might as well stay home,” he said. 

The move came after the daily number of those infected with the virus hit 7,999 on Saturday followed by 7,757 on Sunday, according to the health department. 

All three totals broke what had been the previous daily record of 6,968 set in August 2020.

Recommendations

Under the new lockdowns only essential travel from and to the areas will be allowed, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said in its recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The recommendation bans all mass gatherings along with dine-in services inside restaurants, cafes and other establishments while it discourages face-to-face meetings.

A curfew has been imposed starting at 10 p.m. and running until 5 a.m. the following day, while people younger than 18 and older than 65 are “required to remain in their residences at all times.”

The Philippines began its long-delayed inoculation program at the start of March, but only about 1 million vaccine doses have arrived. To date, less than 300,000 of the country’s 110 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine. 

On Monday, Roque said the rationale behind limiting movements was that the government wanted “to lessen the number of COVID (cases) in the bubble area.” 

“We also want to prevent the spread of new variants in areas outside of Metro Manila,” Roque said. “So, I hope they [the public] understand that we are doing this for the public good, because right now, the numbers that we are seeing, I’m sure is partly due to the variants and if we are going to spread these variants all over the Philippines, can you imagine, what will happen?” 

While the best health care is available in Metro Manila, areas outside of the capital region “will have less and less capacity to care for those who may get sick,” he said. 

New strains

On Monday, the health department reported 46 new cases of a COVID-19 strain first detected in the United Kingdom, 62 cases of the strain first detected in South Africa and six cases of the strain first reported in the Philippines.

The department has urged “the public to stay at home unless extremely necessary,” the agency said.

“With the upcoming Holy Week, the DOH encourages everyone to avoid large congregations and practice religious activities at home,” it said.  

“Strict adherence to the minimum public health standards in all private and public settings is strongly emphasized to minimize COVID-19transmission and avoid further mutations,” it said. 

With the growing number of COVID-19 cases, some of Manilla’s big hospitals have reported capacity concerns.

The health department said 30 of the 150 hospitals in metro Manila were placed in “critical status” while 22 were in “high-risk status” in terms of capacity. Of those listed as critical, 13 have reached 100 percent bed occupancy.

Dr. Oscar Tinio, a Philippine Medical Association spokesman, said many doctors had expressed fears about the coronavirus.

About 13,000 doctors and nurses have been infected since March 2020, and at least 70 have died because of COVID-19, according to tallies by medical associations.

“The virus, no matter what you do, will have variants. That is its nature. It will duplicate, no matter what,” Tinio told local television. 

“We’re really having some concerns right now, because some of our doctors are in critical condition,” he said.

“Overall, we’re alarmed, we’re scared. We don’t like what is happening right now,” he said. “Our hospitals are getting filled up, our doctors are getting scared again.”

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