MANILA • The Philippines yesterday said it would ramp up testing for the coronavirus amid a spike in infections and deaths since a lockdown was eased in June, while President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to arrest anyone not wearing a mask.
The government is aiming to test 32,000 to 40,000 people a day compared with the current 20,000 to 23,000, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a televised meeting with Mr Duterte.
The Philippines has tested nearly 1.1 million people so far, but Dr Duque said the aim was for 10 million people – or nearly a tenth of the population – to be tested by the second quarter of next year. “We cannot test every citizen as no country has done it, even the richest, the United States,” Dr Duque added.
In South-east Asia, the Philippines ranks second to Indonesia in terms of the number of infections and deaths, with cases jumping nearly four-fold to 70,764 and deaths nearly doubling to 1,837 since the government relaxed lockdown measures in June.
Yesterday, it reported two more deaths and 1,951 more infections.
The authorities have also reimposed lockdowns in some of the hardest-hit areas.
Of 30 countries most impacted by the pandemic, the Philippines ranked 24th in terms of testing rate, statistics show.
Mr Duterte has threatened to arrest anyone found to be spreading the virus, refusing to wear a mask or keeping a safe distance from others.
“We do not have any qualms in arresting people,” Mr Duterte said in a recorded address aired yesterday. It was a “serious crime” to spread the Covid-19 respiratory disease, he added.
“If you are brought to the police station and detained there, that would give you a lesson for all time,” he said of anyone caught not wearing a mask.