MANILA, Philippines — Despite the stringent measures being enforcedto prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the country’s fight against the contagion is “far from over.”
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles—spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases—said this in a virtual press briefing Wednesday as the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that the Philippine government must consider the “epidemiological situation” should it decide to lift the Luzon lockdown, which is scheduled to end at midnight on April 13.
Nograles said that as long as health authorities have yet to develop a vaccine, measures against COVID-19 will still be in place and will become part of the “new normal” even after the situation deescalates.
“It’s far from over, totoo po ‘yun because habang wala pang vaccine ito, then ito na nga ‘yung sinasabi nating new normal,” Nograles said.
“Kahit magtatransition na tayo doon sa tinatawag natin na new normal, kailangan naka implement pa rin po ‘yng social distancing measures, kailangan maingat pa rin po tayo dahil habang nandiyan pa ‘yung threat ng COVID-19 at wala pang vaccine then kalangan lagi tayong mag ingat kaya magpapatuloy pa po trabaho natin sa pag-issue ng guidelines to ensure na di na naman magkaron ng massive local transitions,” he added.
About half of the country’s population were ordered to stay home, mass gatherings were banned and public transportation systems were suspended after President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine, effectively a lockdown, beginning March 16.
The lockdown is the government’s response to health experts’ estimate that COVID-19 infection may reach 75,000 in the Philippines in the next three months if the virus is not contained.
Nograles, however, said that the IATF has yet to decide whether or not it will recommend to Duterte the lifting, extension or expansion of the lockdown.
But “with everybody’s cooperation,” Nograles said the spread of the infectious respiratory disease in the Philippines will certainly not reach the experts’ estimate.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday recorded the country’s single largest daily increase in COVID-19 infections as the agency ramped up testing.
Halfway past the 30-day lockdown, the Philippines has so far reported 2,084 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 88 of whom have died while 49 recovered.
The country’s fatality rate reached as high as 8 percent at one point. This is double the global average of 4 percent. Currently, the country’s fatality rate stands at 4.2 percent.