PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has threatened to reimpose a lockdown if coronavirus cases spike, as his Health chief said the pandemic entered a “second wave” in the Philippines as early as March.
“We’ll have to just go back to the original program,” the President, who relaxed quarantine rules for some areas outside Metro Manila starting May 16, said in a taped address on Tuesday night.
He said the government would monitor cases in regions where the lockdown had been eased.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III on Wednesday said the country entered a second wave of COVID-19 infections in March, when the Department of Health reported a spike in cases.
“We’re now on the second wave and we’re doing everything to flatten the curve,” he told senators at a hearing.
Mr. Duque said the first wave started in January when local Health authorities confirmed the infection of three Chinese travelers from China’s Wuhan City, where the virus was first detected.
Meanwhile, he said Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd. had offered to include the Philippines in the clinical trial of a newly developed vaccine.
Mr. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island 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. The President extended the so-called enhanced community quarantine twice for the island and thrice for the capital region where novel coronavirus infections are concentrated.
Metro Manila and key cities and regions were kept under a modified lockdown from May 16 to 30, while some businesses were allowed to reopen with a skeletal workforce.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 279 new infections yesterday, bringing the total to 13,221.
The death toll rose to 842 after five more patients died, it said in a bulletin. Eighty-nine more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 2,932, it added.
Of the 279 new cases, 150 came from Metro Manila, 14 from Central Visayas and 115 from the other regions, DoH said.
Carlito G. Galvez. Jr., chief enforcer of the government’s anti-coronavirus disease 2019 efforts, said the national action plan could be localized.
“Villages with cases will be locked down to preserve our economy,” he said at the same televised address on Tuesday.
Mr. Duterte said that the virus remains a threat in the absence of a vaccine. He said he would raise enough money so the government could buy vaccines once one is developed by next year.
Also yesterday, John Wong, a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Medicine and Public Health, said the “wave” in cases refers to the rise and fall in the number of infections.
The first wave happened in January even if there were few coronavirus cases, he said at a news briefing. The second wave, he added, started in the first week of March.
Mr. Wong earlier this month cited “flattening of the curve” after coronavirus infections slowed, which means fewer people need to seek treatment.
Countries worldwide including the Philippine have imposed lockdowns and asked people to observe social distancing to slow the virus spread.
The curve researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will get infected over time.
“A curve that is flattened means instead of going straight up it, plateaus,” Mr. Wong said “The important thing is it never reaches or exceeds the capacity of the health system.” — Gillian M. Cortez, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas