The Philippines on Monday reported nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 cases, halfway into a 15-day Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine that was reimposed to cap fast-rising infections. President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to decide this week whether to keep or loosen the MECQ that shut many businesses and all public transportation.
With 6,958 new cases, the Philippines now has 136,638 COVID-19 patients, of which 66,186 are active. Last week, the country overtook Indonesia to top Southeast Asia in terms of the number of confirmed infections. An "unexpected error" in its database delayed the release of patient data on Monday.
Earlier Monday, the head of the National Task Force on COVID-19, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, said Metro Manila appeared "ready" to revert to a General Community Quarantine. Also during the day, the Department of Health said it set aside a P2.4 billion budget for a vaccine once it become available.
The biggest quarantine center in Metro Manila, with some 500 beds, is near completion and will open soon as authorities seek to build isolation facilities for thousands. The MECQ, set to end on Aug. 18, is meant to give health frontliners a timeout and buy government time to reboot its strategy.
Authorities have also set up a command center for hospitals, moved to increase bed allocations for COVID-19 patients, and prepared to go house-to-house in search for potential carriers. Once the MECQ is lifted, authorities will shift to localized lockdowns.