By Catherine S Valent/Manila Times
The Philippines will be in “deep trouble” if it totally reopens the economy “in wild abandon” amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte warned early yesterday.
In a taped public address aired on state-run PTV-4 early yesterday, Duterte said the country must be “circumspect” in gradually opening the economy to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“We have to be very circumspect in the opening of the economy. It must be gradual. If ever there is going to be a spike again, infected, or reinfected, at least calibrated numbers of people allowed to go out will still be at manageable numbers,” Duterte said.
“Because if we open the entire Philippines and thousands upon thousands of cases would happen then. We are in deep trouble. We will have difficulty. First off, we don’t have money,” he added.
The president said he could not follow other countries that loosened their lockdown and fully reopened their economies despite the pandemic.
He noted that countries like Japan, South Korea, China and the United States have suffered almost a “relapse” when they encountered another wave of infections.
“Although they opened their economy for money to come into the government’s coffers, there was a spike, they have a problem of almost a relapse…That’s difficult,” Duterte said.
“We are poor. We cannot afford really a total pandemic. We are poor, we cannot gamble,” he added. The president warned that the country would only suffer because of the possibility that Covid-19 infections might continue to rise.
“It would be really difficult for us. First and foremost, we don’t have enough money to address the pandemic,” he said.
The Philippines has been under community quarantine since mid-March, where the movement of people has been limited.
The government has eased restrictions in Metro Manila and some other parts of the country since June 1, permitting more movement and business reopening.
At present, Duterte said the country remains on the first wave of the coronavirus transmission.
“Have we arrived at the second wave? I don’t think so. We are still grappling with the first wave,” Duterte said.
“And if ever there is going to be a spike again, many might be infected or re-infected, at least the calibrated numbers of people we allowed to go out would be still within manageable numbers,” he added. The president also said the country suffered a “double whammy” when the pandemic affected public health and the economy but recognised the government’s “timely intervention” as well as the work of health workers in stemming the disease outbreak.
“I hope this will pass. It concerns the health of the nation and the economy. The only consolation is that we are not the only one. Of course, the rich nations are better off. At least we are able to stop the rampaging Covid on its tracks with our timely intervention, government especially the medical workers,” he said.
Duterte also said the coronavirus disease would “remain for all time: until the world found a vaccine or a cure to the illness.
He remained optimistic that a vaccine or medicine “to kill” Covid-19 will be found by December.
“Again, just because you are allowing some of the sectors of our society to go out and work, it does not follow that Covid is not here. Covid will remain for all time. The only thing that would make it useless actually would be the vaccine. But the vaccine is an antibody produced by the body to fight,” Duterte said.
“I am confident that by our readings of other countries who have much improved their scientific study, I think that by December there will be a vaccine or at least if not a vaccine, a medicine that could kill the Covid-19. I would prefer that we use the medicine to kill then get a vaccine later on,” he said.
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