MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the budget department to look for funds to aid residents of Metro Manila, which will shift to the strictest of 4 lockdowns next month, Malacañang said on Friday.
The National Capital Region will be under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from Aug. 6 to 20 to arrest the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and to shield the country's medical system, Malacañang said.
Duterte directed the budget department "to source funds" for the aid, his spokesman Harry Roque said in a text message.
The aid might be same as the assistance given to 4 areas currently under ECQ, which amounts to P1,000 each for up to 4 members of a family, Roque added in a radio interview.
"Ang hinihingi ko lang talaga ay kumpirmasyon," he said. "Pero nakausap naman si [Budget] Secretary Wendel Avisado at ang sabi niya sa akin hahanapin at hahanapin natin ‘yan dahil ang Presidente, hindi pumapayag mag-ECQ nang walang ayuda sa mga mamamayan."
(I am just asking for confirmation. But I have talked with Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and he told me he will look for funds because the President does not agree to an ECQ without giving assistance to the public.)
The highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, has spread rapidly across much of Southeast Asia.
The Philippines also extended a ban on travelers coming from 10 countries including India, Indonesia, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates to Aug. 15 to arrest the Delta variant's spread.
Already battling the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in Asia, the Philippines has so far recorded over 1.57 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 27,000 deaths.
The country has reported 216 cases of the Delta variant, but health experts say there could be more undetected cases because of the slow pace of the country's genome sequencing.
The second wave in the Philippine outbreak peaked in April and after mainly trending low, infections started to rise again in recent weeks. Currently hospital occupancy in the capital area is 49 percent, while the rate for intensive care beds is 58 percent.
The government is aiming to fully immunize up to 70 million people before the year ends.
– With a report from Reuters