Indonesia on Thursday reclaimed the top spot in Southeast Asia in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases, overtaking the Philippines, official data showed. The two countries are the hardest hit in the region by the pandemic while its neighbors have slowly begun to unwind restrictions.
As of late Thursday, Jakarta reported a total of 349,160 cases after adding 4,411 new infections. Manila's tally rose to 348,698 after adding 2,261. Indonesia had a total of 12,156 deaths compared to the Philippines' 6,497. Indonesia's population of 267 million is more than double that of the Philippines.
The Philippines is slowly unwinding quarantines that have been in place since March. Starting October -- restaurants can operate for 24 hours, hotels can offer staycation packages, and commuters can be spaced one seat apart in public transport instead of one meter.
President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday Russia expressed desire to build a pharmaceutical plant in the Philippines and bring in its COVID-19 vaccine. The President said he preferred sourcing the vaccine from Moscow and Beijing.
"Nakahanap na ako ng pera. I have the money already for the vaccine," Duterte said. Ideally, the entire population of over 100 million should have it and the poor will be prioritized, he said in his weekly address to the nation late Wednesday.
A Pulse Survey in September showed that nine in 10 Filipinos approve of Duterte's handling of the pandemic. The Philippines on Wednesday confirmed 1,910 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 346,536, of which 46,227 are active.
The President address the nation late Wednesday at the midpoint of current quarantine classifications that are effective until Oct. 31. Metro Manila is under GCQ, the second lowest quarantine, while the rest of the country is mostly under MGCQ, which is one notch lower.
Officials told Duterte that cases had begun to go down. In Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak, active cases were more than halved to 7,830 from around 20,000 a month ago, said Sec. Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer of the country's pandemic response.
Contact-tracing was also improved up to 15 contacts per patient, Galvez said. The government currently has 34,057 active contact-tracers, said Interior Sec. Eduardo Ano.