President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday broached the idea of reimposing stricter lockdown nationwide in an effort to prevent the entry of a new strain of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) from the United Kingdom (UK) to the Philippines.
Duterte floated the idea in a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and infectious diseases experts held at Malacañan Palace in Manila.
“Actually, ‘yung (the reimposition of another national) lockdown is a possibility. I said we’re making some projection. But if the severity in numbers would demand that we take corrective measures immediately, then we just have to go back to lockdown,” he said.
Duterte said he would decide depending on the “severity on the number” of cases of the new variant of the SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes Covid-2019.
“It depends on the severity of the number. Kasi kapag marami na (If the cases rise) and we do not have the antidote on how to kill those variants, we’ll have a problem there and of course, we’ll also be hard-pressed on looking for the money for the expenses in the meantime. Magastos iyan (That will be costly),” he said.
The British government has imposed tougher measures after it discovered the new strain of Covid-19, which could be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the previous variants.
As of Saturday, the Department of Health (DOH) said the Philippines has 28,883 active Covid-19 cases and 431,055 recoveries. It also reported five new deaths, bringing the total to 9,067.
Duterte initially imposed the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March this year to curb the further spread of Covid-19 in the country.
He, however, decided to eventually ease the health and quarantine measures to pave the way for the reopening of the Philippine economy.
Duterte emphasized the need to secure the country’s borders to prevent the possible entry of the new Covid-19 strain.
“What is very important is really to control the entry of people, whether or not they have in their bodies already the virus. That’s another thing. But kailangan nating i-control yung borders natin (it is important that we control our borders),” he said.
Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, who was present at the meeting, said the situation in the country is “manageable.”
Año, nevertheless, said there is a need to monitor the UK and other countries with reported cases of the new Covid-19 strain.
“Our situation in the country is manageable if we are looking at the local Covid situation. What we have to really guard or to watch out is the international borders because the new strain is coming from those identified countries,” he said.
Due to concerns over the spread of a new variant of Covid-19, Duterte has initially approved the IATF-EID’s resolution that bans Philippines flights from the UK from December 24 to 31.
On Saturday, Duterte approved the recommendation of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque to extend the travel ban for another two weeks. (PNA)