PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is not discounting the possibility of placing the country in another lockdown if the new strain of coronavirus, which is now spreading in the United Kingdom (UK), will reach and spread in the Philippines. God forbid. I hope it won’t happen again. Though, the chief executive said that the decision to put the country under another lockdown would depend on the severity of infections with the new virus strain.
“Actually, the lockdown is a possibility. I said we are making some projections. But if the severity in numbers would demand that we take corrective measures immediately, then we will just have to go back to lockdown,” the President was quoted as saying after meeting with members of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) over the weekend.
Duterte placed the entire country under a state of emergency and ordered a lockdown (enhanced community quarantine) in the entire Luzon on March 16. The directive was in response to the growing cases of Covid-19 transmission. At that time, there were 500 plus cases and 36 deaths, per record of the Department of Health (DOH).
This new coronavirus strain spreading in the UK has genetic changes that could make it better at infecting cells. Several changes or mutations were found in the genes. This new strain has been blamed for a sharp uptick of cases prompting a new lockdown in London and more than 40 countries to ban cross-border travel from the UK.
A study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that the new coronavirus mutation spreading in the UK is 50 percent more contagious, less than the figure floated by the government when it instituted harsh lockdown last week, although still capable to dramatically worsen the country’s Covid-19 outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, however, said that while the new virus appears to transmit more easily, there is “no evidence that the new variant makes people sicker or increases the risk of death.” The new virus “mutates regularly,” but the overwhelming majority of mutations are insignificant, the CDC said.
The discovery of this new strain has prompted the Philippine Government to impose a travel ban from the UK effective Dec. 24 up to Dec. 31. But Duterte just this weekend extended the travel ban for another 15 days. This new strain has been detected in Singapore, Japan, Australia and Hongkong. And, mind you, we have direct flights from these places. Gov. Gwen Garcia and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan strongly recommended the reopening of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to international flights to help boost Cebu’s ailing tourism industry that has been greatly affected by the pandemic. I don’t know if the latest news on the strain had changed their stand.
We know already the situation and condition of our country when the government imposed a lockdown for a few months since March. The economy was greatly affected with several business establishments shutting down and millions of Filipinos workers here and abroad, especially the overseas Filipinos workers (OFW), lost their jobs. I don’t want to go back to that scenario. It was a nightmare.
But we have to brace ourselves for that if things get worse. Again, this is a matter of economic survival and protecting public health. Does our government still have the resources to support the people’s needs in the event of another lockdown?
Happy New Year to all our avid readers.