MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he was considering easing pandemic curbs in Metro Manila to boost the country's battered economy once the Philippines secures a stock of at least 2 million COVID-19 shots.
The Philippines received its first vaccine supply on Sunday, courtesy of China's donation of 600,000 COVID-19 shots from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech.
"Magkaroon lang tayo ng stock ng 2 million [doses], bitawan ko na. I will open the economy. Talagang hirap tayo," Duterte said, when asked if he was considering placing Metro Manila under the loosest of quarantine levels.
(Once we get a stock of 2 million doses, I will let it go. I will open the economy. We are really suffering.)
"People have to eat, people have to work, people have to pay for their upkeep. And the only way to do it is to open the economy, and for businesses to regrow," he said in a press briefing.
The President however later said that he remove restrictions when the country has distributed some 20 to 40 million vaccines.
“Eh sa estimate nila it’s about 40 million. Kung maka-hit tayo ng 40 million o nandiyan na ‘yong vaccine, maski mag... mayroon tayong mga 20, 30, buksan ko na. Buksan ko na dahil sa economy,” he said.
(based on their estimate, it's about 40 million. If we can hit 40 million or the vaccine is there, even if... we have maybe 20, 30, I'll open it. I'll open it because of the economy.)
Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of the country's gross domestic product, has been under the third loosest lockdown since August.
Duterte had rejected calls of placing the capital region this March under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the loosest of 4 lockdown levels.
One of Asia's fastest-growing economies before the pandemic, the Philippines last year suffered its worst GDP contraction since the end of the Second World War.
The Philippines was set to get 525,600 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Britain's AstraZeneca on March 1. However, supply problems will delay this by about a week, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The Philippines is the last Southeast Asian country to receive initial vaccine supplies.