Philippines likely to become South-east Asia's coronavirus hot spot

It sees record daily spike even as authorities in Germany, France and US warn of 2nd wave

Traffic jam in Metro Manila on Aug 4, 2020. Checkpoints have been set up all over the area, home to some 12 million.
Traffic jam in Metro Manila on Aug 4, 2020. Checkpoints have been set up all over the area, home to some 12 million.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA • The Philippines could become South-east Asia's largest coronavirus hot spot after recording its biggest single-day jump in new infections yesterday, the same day a tough lockdown was reimposed in Metro Manila and four densely populated provinces of the island nation.

The Philippines recorded 6,352 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, which took the country's total caseload past the 112,000 mark as the global tally in the pandemic neared 18.5 million.

Currently, Indonesia has the most number of cases in South-east Asia, at just over 115,000. This includes 5,388 fatalities - more than double the 2,115 deaths recorded in the Philippines thus far. The global death toll has crossed 698,000, with many countries appearing to lose ground in their fight to control the virus.

The tough shelter-at-home restrictions in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite came days after health workers warned that the country was "waging a losing battle" against the coronavirus following the relaxation of restrictions in June.

The decision to reimpose a two-week lockdown was taken reluctantly by President Rodrigo Duterte, with experts estimating that the economy stands to lose 12 billion pesos (S$337 million) a day.

Australia, too, opted to take tough steps to check the pandemic, with the state of South Australia yesterday announcing restrictions on the number of people who can gather at homes and on the consumption of alcohol.

As Australia battles a second wave of infections that its government has blamed on people flouting travel restrictions, the state of Victoria rolled out tougher fines for residents caught flouting stay-at-home orders.

Spot checks conducted by the Victoria authorities yesterday found that 25 per cent of people were not at home when house calls were made, which the state's Premier Daniel Andrews dubbed "unacceptable".

Victoria residents can now be slapped with fines of almost A$5,000 (S$4,900) if they are caught violating the lockdown in Victoria, up from A$1,652 previously.

Similar virus fears were mirrored elsewhere, with the head of the German doctors' union warning that the country was already reckoning with a second wave of infections and risks squandering its early success as people flout social distancing rules.

"We are already in a second, shallow upswing," said Dr Susanne Johna, president of the Marburger Bund, which represents doctors in Germany.

 
 
 

In France, the number of patients requiring life support surged, with the country's scientific council warning that it is likely to experience a second epidemic wave in the autumn or winter. "We can switch at any time to a less controlled scenario," it said.

The US authorities, too, fear that flagrant violations of social distancing norms - such as a spate of house parties in New Jersey that led to almost 100 cases - could lead to the coronavirus crisis spinning out of control in the worst-hit country in the world.

The decision to reimpose a two-week lockdown was taken reluctantly by President Rodrigo Duterte, with experts estimating that the economy stands to lose 12 billion pesos (S$337 million) a day.

The United States has seen nearly 4.9 million cases and 159,000 deaths in the pandemic.

However, President Donald Trump insisted the outbreak in the country is under control, tweeting on Monday: "With the exception of New York and a few other locations, we have done much better than most other countries in dealing with the China virus. Many of these countries are now having a major second wave. The fake news is working overtime to make the USA (and me) look as bad as possible!"

Mr Trump's assertion was in stark contrast to a warning from White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, who said on Sunday that the virus was "extraordinarily widespread" in America's rural areas as well as cities.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2020, with the headline 'Philippines likely to become S-E Asia's coronavirus hot spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe