By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines may be hard-pressed to attain New Zealand’s accomplishment of hitting zero cases of the new coronavirus disease because of its densely populated areas, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque recognized New Zealand’s latest achievement in halting the spread of the disease but admitted the country may not be able to follow suit since the small Pacific island neighbor has a fewer population compared to the country.
“Tatapatin ko po kayo. Medyo mahirap makamit ‘yan ng Pilipinas. Kasi kung ikukumpara mo sa New Zealand, ang land area niyan ay kasinglaki lang ng Luzon, ang population niyan ay 5 million lang (I will be frank with you. It may be difficult for the Philippines to achieve that because compared to New Zealand, its land area is only as big as Luzon with a population of only 5 million),” he said over government television when asked about the country’s capacity to achieve zero cases like New Zealand.
“Eh tayo sa Metro Manila lang, 40 million na tayo so talagang dikit dikit na tayo, dahilan kung bakit mabilis kumalat ang sakit. So I’m happy for the New Zealanders, pero limited population po sila at malaking land area, kaya siguro ganun (In Metro Manila alone, we’re already 40 million so we are densely populated, the reason behind the fast spread of the disease. So I’m happy for New Zealanders. They have a limited population and large land area so maybe that’s the reason),” he said.
New Zealand recently lifted almost all quarantine restrictions after reporting no active cases of the coronavirus in the country. The last COVID-19 case in New Zealand was more than two weeks ago.
Schools and workplaces have reportedly been allowed to reopen but New Zealand’s borders remains shut to foreign visitors. New Zealand has recorded 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from coronavirus, earning global praises for its management of the outbreak.
In the Philippines, the cases of coronavirus reached 22, 992 with 4,736 recoveries as of June 9. The death toll has soared to 1,017 since the disease outbreak last February.
The government has moved to gradually ease the lockdown measures across the country in a bid to reboot the stalled economy. The country is currently under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) except for Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Pangasinan, Zamboanga City, and Davao City which are under GCQ until June 15.
As more testing facilities are accredited, the government has also scaled up targeted testing to trace, isolate, and treat people with coronavirus infections. Roque earlier said they aim to test 1.5 to 2 percent of the country’s 110 million population, including up to 10 percent in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.
On Wednesday, the government task force is scheduled to hold a meeting to study whether to lift, modify, or extend the quarantine status of Metro Manila and other places in the country by June 16. Another meeting with President Duterte will be held next Monday to decide on the matter.
Roque said health indicators such as case doubling time and critical care capacity as well as economic factors will be considered in the government’s decision-making.
“Ang titingnan po natin ay ‘yung tinatawag na doubling rate, gaano kabilis dumami ang kaso ng coronavirus. Ngayon po sa Metro Manila, 6 to 7 days, pero sa buong Pilipinas po ay 10 days na, so makikita natin na talagang Manila as the epicenter ay talagang medyo mabilis pa ‘yung pagkalat ng sakit ( We will look into the doubling rate or how fast the coronavirus cases increase. In Metro Manila, the doubling time is six to seven days while the rest of the Philippines is 10 days. We can see that Manila is really the epicenter with the fast spread of the disease),” he said.
“At titingnan din natin ‘yung kapasidad natin para magbigay ng critical care doon sa posibleng magkasakit dahil wala pa naman tayong bakuna at wala pa tayong gamot sa COVID-19 (We are also looking at our capacity to provide critical care to possible patients because we still have no vaccine and cure for COVID-19),” he said.
He said the quarantine classification will also depend on economic considerations or “kung masyado na talagang nasasaktan ang lokal na ekonomiya (or if the local economy is really hurting).”
“Ang inaasahan po natin, lahat ng parte ng bansa, either papunta na sa MGCQ o papunta na sa new normal. Pero dito po sa Metro Manila, masusing pag-aaral po ng datos ang inaasahan natin mamayang hapon (We expect that all parts of the country may either shift to MGCQ or the new normal but in Metro Manila, we will study carefully the data this afternoon),” he said.
He noted that the meeting of the task force members with the President has been moved from Thursday in Davao City to Friday in Manila.