MANILA - It is too early for the government to lock down Metro Manila due to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday as he noted that the country has “not reached that kind of contamination.”
Duterte explained that the local transmission of the disease does not justify a regional lockdown, citing economic losses.
“We have not reached that kind of contamination. Iisa-isa lang. With this transmission, you want to close down the economy at this time?” the President said during a late-night press briefing in Malacañang
“There will be a time I suppose. I hope not. I hope God will have mercy on our --- the Filipino people. There might be a time. Pero at this time, you want me to… It’s too early,” he said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said it might be "premature" to place Metro Manila on lockdown due to the virus threat even as the government sought to control the local transmission of the disease.
Health authorities still have to wait for evidence of "sustained community transmission" before the government declares a lockdown, Duque told reporters in Malacañang.
Duterte said the government is finding a “balance” between economic needs and ensuring public health.
“Hindi ko sinasabi na bakit hintayin mo ba magkasakit lahat? It’s not that. But you have to balance…Eh wala na magpasok ng bigas, walang magpasok ng mga gasolina, i-lock down mo, patay ang...” he said.
Duterte has declared a state of public health emergency in the Philippines to arrest the spread of the virus.
Manila so far confirmed 24 cases of the disease, including one fatality: a Chinese national from Wuhan City in Central China, where the virus was first reported late last year.
The respiratory disease has killed nearly 4,000, with more than 110,000 cases recorded in over 100 territories.
- With a report from Agence-France Presse