MANILA — The Philippine government defended Wednesday its "draconian" steps to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.
"Let me remind everyone that we are always one step ahead of others like Spain and Italy and even US," Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told a press conference as he justified tough measures currently imposed by the government.
The pandemic, which originated in Hubei, China, has put the Philippines under a state of calamity and the entire Luzon in lockdown until April 13.
The lockdown suspended public transport and work in both public and private sectors, except for those engaged in frontline and basic services, leaving daily wage earners out of jobs for the month.
"If we do not implement draconian measures like this, we would be ending like at least half of Italy's condition now," said Año, a former military chief of staff.
More than 6,000 Italians have died from the virus since it claimed its first victim in the country a month ago. Its daily deaths are still higher than those officially recorded in China at the peak of its crisis in Wuhan's central Hubei province, according to a report by the Agence France-Presse.
More than 60,000 people have, meanwhile, been infected.
"Kung di natin ginawa ito, baka ganito ang aabutin natin," Año said.
(If we don't do this, that might happen to us.)
Currently, infections in the Philippines are at 636, with 38 dead and 26 recoveries.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed early Wednesday the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which grants his administration more powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the law, the government will allocate P275 billion to help local government units provide aid to poor families amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and lockdowns in cities and provinces in other parts of the country.
The lockdown suspended public transport and prompted local government units to enforce curfews, limiting hours when people may go out to buy food, medicine and other basic necessities.