April 14, 2020 at 02:05 am
Jimbo Owen B. Gulle
President Rodrigo Duterte said early Tuesday he would lift the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed on the whole of Luzon region only if a vaccine, antibody, or medicine to cure the COVID-19 coronavirus disease was already developed and available to Filipinos.
In a televised address during a meeting with select Cabinet members, Duterte insisted Filipinos stay at home during the quarantine because the country would still need to endure two to three waves of the epidemic before they would see the end of the lockdown entering its fifth week.
“There's no end in sight. Anong katapusan nito, wala pa? (When will it end, we have no clue.) And our numbers are increasing,” the President said while reading the latest tally on the coronavirus spread in the country.
“At this time, we need to treat the sick, we need to feed our people,” added Duterte, who also admonished hospitals for turning away potential COVID-19 patients.
His remarks were made on the eve of government-led mass testing for coronavirus infections, which official Department of Health numbers put at just under 5,000 on Monday.
The President also discussed the utility of the National ID system to identify those who would need government aid, the distribution of aid to 18 million families most affected by the quarantine, observing social distancing, the United States “being part of the problem,” and the temporary travel ban on medical professionals and frontline workers from leaving the country.
In related developments during the same meeting:
- The Finance Department proposed a wage subsidy for employees of small businesses, as Undersecretary Karl Chua said 3.4 million workers are affected by quarantine measures.
- Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said the government needed to plan “on how to gradually shift towards reviving the economy” because if not, “many of our Filipino brothers will suffer.”
- Duterte ordered authorities manning checkpoints to let trucks and vehicles carrying food and essential goods from the provinces to pass unhampered to their destinations.
- The President told medical workers to hail police vehicles to take them home, especially late at night.
Duterte reiterated several points raised in his previous late-night addresses, including his warning on discriminating against health workers, for local government leaders to “not play around” with quarantine efforts, and for the Left and other critics to inform him “if you have a better way of dealing with the problem, tell us.”
Filipinos needed to brace for a longer lockdown, the President said, because the country was just in the first wave of the epidemic that has claimed over 115,000 lives worldwide, including at least 315 in the Philippines.
“This doesn’t end with those at the hospital, those being treated now, that’s just the first wave. This will have a second wave. While those hit (by the disease) are dying, the others that are being infected, they are the second wave. That’s why you should maintain the social distancing rule,” Duterte explained.
The President promised that if a cure for the coronavirus was already “tested medically” and made available to the country, he would lift the ECQ, which he had extended to April 30 from an initial one-month lockdown that would have ended at midnight of April 12 (Sunday).