Filipinos need to hang on longer and endure coronavirus restrictions until a vaccine is available, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday, as the country’s caseload surged to more than 93,000 and the death toll past 2,000.
In a televised address to the public, Duterte said the government has already prepared a plan for free immunizations against Covid-19 once the vaccine becomes available.
“I promise you, by the grace of God, I hope by December, we would be back to normal,” he said. “You just have to endure some more. It’s almost here. I told you I have been praying to God for a guiding light so that these guys can make the vaccine.”
Duterte said China has already promised to prioritize providing vaccine supply to the Philippines, noting that three Chinese pharmaceutical companies were leading the race in manufacturing the anti-Covid-19 inoculation.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the government plans to provide free vaccination against Covid-19, to a minimum of 20 million people, or about one-fifth of the country’s estimated population of 100 million.
Poor- and middle-income Filipinos, and those who are infected and at risk of dying will be prioritized for the free vaccinations, while those who can afford it should just buy the vaccine, Duterte said.
The military and police forces will also be included in the priority list “because I need a strong backbone,” he added. “The backbone of my administration is the uniformed personnel of government.”
On Friday, the Department of Health reported a record 4,063 additional coronavirus infections, pushing the country’s tally to more than 93,354. The death toll from Covid-19 also rose to 2,023, with 40 additional deaths reported, it added.
Of the additional cases, 1,705 are infections confirmed in the past three days, while 2,358 were confirmed previously but only later added to the tally after data reconciliation with local government units, the department added.
Gasoline as a disinfectant
Despite the spike in infections and deaths, the government maintained a relaxed general community quarantine protocol in the capital and high-risk areas, while the rest of the country was under the less stringent modified general community quarantine protocol.
Filipinos were reminded that they are required to wear face masks if they need to go out of their homes, and were encouraged to also use face shields for “low ventilation settings,” such as public transportation.
Duterte said he was not joking when he suggested Filipinos who cannot afford to buy alcohol and other disinfectants to instead use gasoline, which the health department earlier refuted as a joke.
“I was not joking. That is true,” he said. “If alcohol is not available ... go to the gasoline station, that’s disinfectant,” he said. “You can use gasoline or kerosene to disinfect.”
Lockdown in Manila
The government imposed a lockdown on the country's most populous island, Luzon, including Manila and other high-risk areas, in mid-March in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
Since June 1, the government has been easing the restrictions, allowing malls, private offices and public transport to resume on a reduced capacity. More establishments, such as gyms, internet cafes and aesthetic clinics, will be also allowed to reopen starting on Saturday.