Duterte warns of stricter Covid-19 curbs if people keep disregarding rules

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BLOOMBERG) – The Philippines may implement stricter measures if people continue to disregard health protocols and quarantine restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Monday (June 7) in his pre-recorded briefing.

He did not specify what those stricter measures might be but he pointed out seeing people not following the rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, particularly in Bacolod in the Visayas and Cagayan de Oro Mindanao.

Some people in those places, he said, act as though there was no pandemic, even just roaming around.

“We might calibrate our response to the intransigence that you will show. It’s up to you. Then we can go into… there are many things. I could – I just don’t want to say it, but we have the power to control it actually if we want to make it hard for people,” Mr Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino.

Usually, a blatant disregard for the rules is treated as a criminal violation that would merit a ticket and detention, while both the national government and local government units impose strict lockdowns in response to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

From March up to mid-May, Metro Manila and its four neighbouring provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal were placed under enhanced community quarantine and modified enhanced community quarantine due to a surge that peaked to more than 200,000 active Covid-19 cases at one point.

It was only downgraded to a general community quarantine after Metro Manila recorded a gradual decrease in cases.

However, even with that decrease, the country’s new infections remained at the 6,000 to 7,000 mark, with Health Secretary Francisco Duque attributing the spike to the higher cases recorded in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Some administration officials even floated the possibility of declaring martial law as a response against Covid-19. In May 2020, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said that the pandemic might be considered an “invasion”, which is a ground for placing the country under military rule.

Mr Duterte himself explored the same possibility, but he was reacting to allegations that communist New People’s Army had been ambushing government workers to steal aid for people affected by the pandemic.

However, the administration has repeatedly insisted that the pandemic is not enough reason to declare martial law, with Mr Duterte saying during the onset of the health crisis that lockdowns are different from military rule.

Meanwhile, the Philippines has cleared Sinopharm Group’s coronavirus vaccine, adding to the more than 15 million doses expected to arrive in the coming weeks as the nation aims to accelerate inoculation and revive the economy.

Sinopharm was approved for emergency use so the government can receive the state-owned company’s vaccine donations, Food and Drug Administration head Eric Domingo said on Monday evening at a weekly briefing. The Philippines has inoculated about six million, of which 1.5 million have received their second dose, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said.

The Philippines has received 9.3 million doses of vaccines and is expecting 11 million to arrive this month including 4.5 million from Sinovac Biotech, 2.28 million from Pfizer, two million from AstraZeneca through the World Health Organisation-backed Covax vaccine sharing facility, and 250,000 from Moderna, Secretary Galvez said. More than five million doses could come in July and as much as 17 million in August, he said.

The Philippines has started vaccinating about 35 million workers and is monitoring how other countries will inoculate their young population as guidance for about 29 million Filipinos in that age group, according to Mr Galvez.

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The economy, which suffered a record contraction in 2020 after implementing one of the world’s longest lockdowns, is counting on vaccines to aid its rebound.

Mr Duterte has urged Filipinos to make sure they are taking the second dose of the vaccines after data showed that about half of those who had their first shot did not go back for the second one.

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