Members of the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 will be expected to fly to Davao City this week, where President Rodrigo Duterte will lead the country’s coronavirus response, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said today.
The chief executive flew to his hometown over the weekend shortly after announcing that Metro Manila and other high-risk areas will transition to the general community quarantine (GCQ), a looser form of lockdown that was imposed after more than two months of the stricter enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Roque claimed in a virtual briefing that Duterte’s trip home is not purely for selfish reasons, but also part of his duty.
“He’s in Mindanao right now not just to have a [family] reunion, but also to check on the situation in Mindanao,” the spokesman said in English and Filipino.
“In fact, he will have an official function [to attend] in Davao including his report to the nation and a meeting with select members of the IATF. It will all be done in Davao,” Roque reiterated.
Duterte has been delivering reports about the government’s pandemic response once a week, every Monday, as part of the conditions of the Bayanihan [Camaraderie] Act of 2020. The meandering late-night briefings, which have been a source of frustration for the public, have all been delivered from the Malacañang Palace in Manila since March.
This is the second time that Duterte went home to Davao after announcing eased quarantines. He flew to Davao in late May to celebrate his 75th birthday at the heels of his announcement that the capital was transitioning from an ECQ into a “modified” ECQ, allowing certain businesses, including malls, to partially reopen.
Despite the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, which also has one of the highest fatality rates in Southeast Asia, the Duterte government has said that it is necessary to ease quarantine restrictions to reopen the economy.
As of yesterday, the total number of confirmed COVID cases in the country stands at 18,086, including 957 deaths. The Department of Health today said that it is still in the process of validating 6,800 tests.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the backlog is due to “operational issues” in some testing laboratories, citing some labs moving their systems from a manual to a computerized reporting as one of the reasons for the logistical hiccup.
This article, Work from Home? Duterte to deliver coronavirus report from Davao City, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!