Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to extend the lockdown of Cebu City for two more weeks, as the government scrambles to contain the Covid-19 outbreak there.
Meanwhile, a task force overseeing efforts against the virus is looking at further easing restrictions in Metropolitan Manila to revive the capital’s battered economy.
“Cebu is now the hot spot. Why? Because you refuse to follow (rules),” Mr Duterte said in a news briefing late on Tuesday.
He chafed at what he saw as the stubbornness of Cebu residents.
“You do not follow the rules. If you’re really sick in the mind, think of your fellow man. All I’m asking is, you keep yourself alive and not spread the infection,” he said.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, dispatched by Mr Duterte to oversee efforts to slow the spread of the virus in Cebu, told reporters earlier on Tuesday: “It’s bleeding now. The number of cases is increasing, as well as the number of deaths.”
On Monday, the Health Ministry’s Cebu office reported 191 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of reported cases in the city to 5,141. At least 169 have died.
Cebu has been under strict lockdown since Wednesday last week.
About 100 checkpoints have been set up around the city to make sure everyone stays home, and only those on “essential runs” can go out.
Yesterday, the Health Ministry reported 999 new cases of Covid-19 across the Philippines. The country has now seen a total of 38,511 cases and at least 1,270 deaths.
The ministry identified nine provinces in the southern Philippines as “emerging hot spots”.
NUMBERS AT A GLANCE
Number of new cases reported across the Philippines yesterday by the Health Ministry. The country has now seen a total of 38,511 cases and at least 1,270 deaths.
Most had not reported a single case until recently, when their borders were reopened to people travelling from Metro Manila.
Mr Duterte hinted that quarantine curbs around Metro Manila could be relaxed to restore jobs and restart the capital’s economy, if the current trend in case numbers holds.
“There was substantial compliance in Manila and the rest of (Metro) Manila. I would not say there were no violations. There were, but not on the scale I saw in other places,” said Mr Duterte.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on Monday that restrictions on businesses and travel around Metro Manila would have to be further eased soon.
“The reality today is that the virus is not going to go away, and we will have to live with it for a long period of time. I really believe we really should begin (reopening).”
About a million workers lost their jobs in Metro Manila in April as the nationwide unemployment rate soared to a record high of 17.7 per cent because of the lockdown.
Lockdown curbs were enforced through a web of checkpoints, barricades and curfews across the Philippines, starting on March 16.
Mr Duterte eased the lockdown on June 1, as he sought to walk the fine line between protecting the country’s 107 million people and reviving the economy, which is facing its biggest contraction in more than three decades.
The economy contracted by 0.2 per cent in the first quarter. The last time it slid into negative territory was in 1998, when the country was pummelled by the Asian financial crisis and a long spell of dry weather.
Economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday that he expected a deeper contraction in the second quarter.