Duterte's home town, other cities under siege by surging Covid-19 infections

Davao City, where President Rodrigo Duterte was mayor for over 20 years, now has the most number of daily cases of any urban centre in the Philippines. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's own turf is under siege by a surge in Covid-19 infections.

The Health Ministry's latest data showed that Davao City, where Mr Duterte was the mayor for over 20 years, now has the most number of daily cases of any urban centre in the Philippines. More than 2,300 infections were recorded in the past two weeks alone, and current cases stand at 19,176.

The city is now on a sweeping lockdown till June 20 to contain the outbreak.

Davao has averaged 213 cases a day in the past week. That is higher than in Quezon City, the country's largest city, which is tallying about 207 a day.

Infections in the city are up 54 per cent, with 8.34 out of every 100,000 people living in the city on average getting the virus on any given day, according to a report released by the Octa Research Group, which is based in the University of the Philippines.

Among those being tested, about seven in 100 return positive results.

In one cluster, more than 400 employees at an outsourcing firm tested positive.

Davao and nine other cities, mostly in the central and southern parts of the Philippines, have been experiencing surges in infections, even as the number of cases in Metro Manila declines.

"We see that the burden of cases has shifted to other areas," said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

These surges have kept daily infections at between 6,000 and 7,000, still above levels seen before a deadly wave of infections swept the country in March and April.

A quarter of last week's cases were in the vast southern island of Mindanao, where Davao is a key gateway.

The Philippines now has close to 1.3 million Covid-19 cases. It has the second-worst outbreak in South-east Asia, after Indonesia.

Mr Duterte on Monday (June 7) warned that curbs could still be tightened across the country, should people continue to flaunt mask mandates and other safety rules.

The Interior Ministry recorded more than 50,000 violations of mask mandates and some 600 illegal mass gatherings in the first week of June alone.

"We might calibrate our response to the intransigence that you will show. It's up to you," Mr Duterte said in his weekly televised address.

The Philippines is hoping to head off another wave by opening its vaccine roll-out to more groups.

On Monday, it allowed some 30 million "economic front-liners" to get inoculated. These cover those working in groceries, malls, restaurants, hotels, outsourcing firms, courier services and the media.

Private firms have also been allowed to buy vaccines for their workers without having to donate part of their shipments to the government.

Still, the focus will be on Metro Manila.

Metro Manila - which spans 16 cities and is home to some 13 million - has received most of the vaccines.

Active cases in the capital region have fallen to just 13 per cent of the nation's total, from up to 30 per cent, since the government placed it on a two-week hard lockdown in March and April to contain a deadly surge.

A health worker inoculates a citizen with the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine at a school turned into an inoculation center in Metro Manila, on June 7, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Data experts with the Octa research group are recommending that the government start shipping more vaccines to Davao and other places outside Metro Manila that are experiencing a surge.

"They should be included in the priority," said the group's spokesman Guido David.

The government is expecting more than 10 million doses to arrive in June. It approved this week for emergency use a vaccine made by China's Sinopharm to add to its sources of jabs.

Regulators have also allowed the use of Pfizer's vaccine for those 12 years old and up.

Mr Carlito Galvez, the country's "vaccine czar", said some one million doses from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac that arrived this week would be shipped to hard-hit cities outside the capital.

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