‘Economy will die’: PH Trade Dep’t rejects stricter quarantine as COVID-19 cases top 80k

A business in Binondo, Manila, shot in 2019. <i>Photo: John Aledia / Unsplash</i>
A business in Binondo, Manila, shot in 2019. Photo: John Aledia / Unsplash

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) today rejected a return to a stricter lockdown despite COVID-19 cases reaching past 80,000, saying that doing so would kill the Philippine economy.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo that he believes that the steady increase in coronavirus cases can be attributed to the government’s expanded testing capacity, which shouldn’t interfere with the reopening of businesses.

“I do not [recommend a stricter lockdown]. The reason for the rise in numbers is because we’ve also increased the number of tests. Maybe it’s worth noting if the number of deaths has also been on an [upward] trend because it appears [fatalities] are on a downward trend,” he said in English and Filipino.

Lopez explained that it was more ideal to implement localized and “surgical” lockdowns in specific areas where there are COVID-19 “hot spots” and “outbreaks” instead of shutting down an entire city or province. He added that a looser quarantine will give Filipinos jobs, and those jobs will boost consumer confidence, urging people to spend more and stimulate the economy.

“Because if we continue to do that [impose stricter lockdown], the economy will really die… If you ask me, I will definitely not push for it,” Lopez said.

The DTI has been monitoring reopened businesses, which have complied with protocols like social distancing, checking customer’s temperature before entering the establishment, and enforcing the use of face masks, he said.

Read: In or Out? PH restaurants to increase dining capacity up to 75% starting next week

Over a month ago, restaurants in the country increased their dine-in capacity to 50% in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas and 75% in modified GCQ, with Lopez attributing the loosened measures to a large majority of restaurants following health protocols.

Meanwhile, Lopez said in the same interview that face mask supplies have stabilized after local companies have increased their production to 55 million pieces in a month. Prior to the lockdown, the companies would produce just up to one million in a single month.

He added that because of the increase in supply, face coverings now sell competitively for PHP10 (US$0.20) at its cheapest, compared to PHP28 (US$0.50) when the Philippines faced a shortage.

To date, the Philippines has logged at least 82,040 COVID-19 cases, with 1,945 deaths, and 26,446 recoveries.

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