A worker wearing a personal protective suit disinfects escalators, as part of measures aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in a mall in Manila on June 2, 2020, a day after the government eased up quarantine measures in the country's capital.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Amid spikes in COVID-19 cases, Palace says no choice but to reopen economy
(Philstar.com) - July 6, 2020 - 5:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said it was "saddened" by the sharp rise in novel coronavirus cases in the country but maintained that it sees reopening the country's economy as the only option for now.

"We really have no alternative, because our economy has been pushed to the edge. All of us need to start working," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in Filipino.

However, he maintained that reverting to a stricter community quarantine is still a possibility if Metro Manila fails to meet the minimum seven-day doubling rate criteria and finds its critical care capacity overwhelmed. 

Roque said that only 63% of NCR's critical care capacity is currently being utilized while the country's positivity rate is at 7.5% — below the World Health Organization's benchmark of 10%.

The health department on Sunday announced a record-breaking surge in the daily tally of national infections amounting to 2,434 followed by another 2,099 cases on Monday. This pushes the national tally to 46,333.

This, less than a week after Roque celebrated "beating" a forecast made by researchers from the University of the Philippines which estimated a total of 40,000 cases in the country by the end of June.

On June 30, the official health department tally stood at around 38,000, with Roque claiming that only about 1,000 backlogged cases remained.

Sunday's tally alone saw 1,287 cases coming from the national backlog while Monday's saw another 841 "late cases" as well. 

UP researchers now predict that the country will see 60,000 infected with novel coronavirus by the end of July.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Statistics Authority last month reported that an additional five million Filipinos were left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic and government-initiated lockdowns in April.

In absolute terms, PSA data showed that movement restrictions threw 7.3 million Filipinos out of their workplace during the survey period, up from 2.3 million a year ago.

"We have seen the impact of COVID-19. If we can't reopen [the economy], then people might die due to a lack of income," Roque said in Filipino during Tuesday's virtual Palace briefing.

Last month, Malacañang drew flack from lawmakers after it said it was looking into letting more foreign workers in for its flagship projects amid the lockdown-induced economic crisis.

Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the government to prioritize hiring Filipinos instead, citing the country's record-high unemployment numbers and the availability of highly skilled overseas filipino workers (OFWs) who have been repatriated due to the pandemic. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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