Coronavirus News Asia

Viral revival shows Duterte loosened too soon

MANILA – The Philippines’ second-largest urban center, Cebu City, has returned to full lockdown after a recent spike in Covid-19 infections some fear could be the first ripple of a viral second wave.   

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made the decision after a University of the Philippines (UP) study warned that the number of confirmed infected residents in the city and its surrounding province could balloon to 11,000 by June 30.

Over the past month, Duterte’s administration relaxed one of the world’s longest coronavirus lockdowns in a bid to prevent further economic pain and suffering. 

But just weeks into a general community quarantine (GCQ), a relaxation of the previous enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) regime, researchers found that the central island province has a virus reproduction rate of 1.96, meaning every infected person passes the disease to nearly two others.

The figure was far higher than in Metro-Manila, where transmission rates have recently hovered between .96 and 1.19. 

The Filipino president responded with his characteristic chutzpah by passing blame to Cebu authorities and residents for being “too complacent.” 

But critics say he’s putting the wrong people in the wrong places in managing the crisis.  

Security personnel hold up placards reminding people to stay at home amid concerns of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Manila on March 31, 2020. Photo: AFP/Maria Tan

Duterte has redoubled his reliance on former generals to contain the lethal disease, dispatching former military chief and current Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to the city, despite lacking relevant experience in public health. 

Another former military chief, Carlito Galvez, who likewise has no relevant public health background, is currently the government’s Covid-19 crisis management team’s “top implementor.” 

The rising militarization of Duterte’s response has raised concern over the appropriateness and efficacy of his government’s approach to the disease. 

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