Duterte to lift Luzon quarantine once COVID-19 antibody cure is available
A researcher works in a lab that is developing testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus at Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation on February 28, 2020 in Nutley, New Jersey. The facility develops novel therapies for some of the worlds most difficult diseases.
Kena Betancur/Getty Images North America/AFP
Duterte to lift Luzon quarantine once COVID-19 antibody cure is available
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 14, 2020 - 5:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, which has slowed down economic activity and has sidelined thousands of workers, may be lifted once the antibody cure for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is available in the market, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

Duterte revealed that a pharmaceutical firm is developing a cure for the disease and may start selling the medicine next month.

"I cannot mention the pharmaceutical giants. But one of them has developed an antibody. The antibody did not come from humans," the president said in a televised address Monday night.

"They are catching up with one another. They said by May, maybe they would start to market it...If it's already available and people are using it, I would lift it (quarantine). If you get sick, we can buy antibodies," he added.

Duterte, however, admitted that access to the medicine would remain a concern for the Philippines.

"The problem is... we are on the last ladder. The rich ones will avail of it first," he said.

The entire island of Luzon has been under enhanced community quarantine since March 17 as part of the government measures intended to contain COVID-19, which has infected nearly 5,000 people in the Philippines. The lockdown was supposed to end last April 13 but Duterte extended it until April 30 to give the governments more time to study the virus and to strengthen the country's health capacity.

Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases spokesman Karlo Nograles could not elaborate on Duterte's statements, saying he did not discuss in detail the information relayed to him.

Asked what would happen if a vaccine is not yet available by May, Nograles said the IATF is still discussing protocols to be implemented as Luzon transitions from a lockdown to a community-based quarantine.

"We will identify what industries, how many percentage of workers or the work force;  transport sector, what we will do; and all of these other factors that we will allow to slowly operate, then we will set very strict and stringent guidelines on what the new normal is," Nograles said.

"The wearing of mask, social distancing, physical distancing, personal hygiene, washing, all of these will be part of the new normal. So, that is still in the process of being finalized," he added.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque reminded the public to take precautionary measures even after April 30.  

"If there is a vaccine or medicine, there is no need to talk about a quarantine. I do not know yet the decision after April 30 but the threat of COVID-19 would remain," he said.

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