Coronavirus: Duterte hopes Philippines will be 'back to normal' by December

Stranded Filipino workers waiting to board military trucks in Manila on Wednesday. The capital region, the provinces south of it and cities in the central Philippines have been under quarantine restrictions since June.
Stranded Filipino workers waiting to board military trucks in Manila on Wednesday. The capital region, the provinces south of it and cities in the central Philippines have been under quarantine restrictions since June.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

President says he is counting on vaccine from China by then, as he extends curbs in Manila

President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed hope that the Philippines "will be back to normal" by December, when he expects a vaccine against the coronavirus to emerge from China.

"I promise you, by the grace of God, I hope by December we will be back to normal," he said during his regular briefing aired yesterday.

"Let's just wait for a vaccine. Let's wait till December, if we can just be patient... We are not going back to a 'new normal'. It's going to be normal again," he said, as he extended restrictions in Metro Manila until the middle of this month.

The country last month recorded South-east Asia's biggest daily jump in Covid-19 deaths and biggest single-day increase of confirmed infections, overwhelming some cities' healthcare systems.

Health officials confirmed 3,954 new infections on Thursday, the country's largest single-day increase in new coronavirus cases.

On July 13, they announced 227 deaths, a spike from a daily average of about 10 in previous days.

The capital region, the provinces south of it and cities in the central Philippines have been under quarantine restrictions since June.

Movements of the elderly and children have been curbed, and the operations of businesses from restaurants to gyms limited.

"My plea is to endure some more," said Mr Duterte.

He said it was good that the Philippines had kept good relations with China, as he expressed hope that China's top pharmaceutical and research firms would be ready with a vaccine against the coronavirus before the end of the year.

The virus, which has infected over 17 million worldwide, killed over 670,000 and upended the global economy, first emerged in China's Wuhan province.

"That's what I've been repeating: vaccine, vaccine, vaccine.

GOING BACK TO NORMAL

I promise you, by the grace of God, I hope by December we will be back to normal. Let's just wait for a vaccine. Let's wait till December, if we can just be patient... We are not going back to a 'new normal'. It's going to be normal again.

PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE

"If there's no vaccine, if this persists, we will run out of money," said Mr Duterte.

Finance Minister Carlos Dominguez said the Philippines was ready to buy doses for at least 20 million people which it would distribute for free.

State-run financial institutions were ready to earmark some US$400 million (S$549 million) for vaccine purchases, he said.

"This will be over by December… We're in good shape to overcome this crisis," he said.

Eight of the nearly two dozen potential vaccines against Covid-19 are from China, the most from any country.

 
 
 

Mr Duterte mentioned China's Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech as potential sources of vaccines.

Sinopharm has two vaccines that it has been selectively testing on small groups of people. Both have completed phase two trials.

Sinovac Biotech is teaming up with Instituto Butantan in Brazil, where about 600,000 have signed up for phase three trials.

CanSino Biologics, a partner of China's People's Liberation Army, has published results that said its vaccine, tested in a trial of about 500 participants in China, has produced strong immune responses with only minor side effects.

Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech are currently building factories capable of producing 300 million doses a year.

Following an appeal from Mr Duterte, China's Foreign Ministry assured the Philippines it would have priority access to China's vaccines. "The Philippines is a friendly close neighbour and we will give priority to its needs once we succeed in developing a vaccine," said the ministry's spokesman Wang Wenbin.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline 'Duterte hopes Philippines will be 'back to normal' by December'. Print Edition | Subscribe