MANILA (REUTERS) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday (July 31) extended coronavirus restrictions in the capital Manila until mid-August and said the Southeast Asian country would be given priority by China if supplies of a vaccine became available.
The Philippines this month recorded Southeast Asia’s biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths and biggest single-day increase in confirmed infections.
The capital region, provinces south of it, and cities in central Philippines were placed under general community quarantine, limiting movement of elderly and children, and the capacity of business establishments.
“My plea is to endure some more. Many have been infected,” Duterte said in a televised address.
Duterte promised free vaccines if they became available by late this year, prioritising first the poor and then the middle class, police and military personnel.
The Philippines will be given precedence by China in vaccine distribution, he said.
Several pharmaceutical companies from China, the United States and the United Kingdom are conducting late-stage trials on vaccines.
The Philippines planned to buy 40 million doses worth US$400 million (S$547 million) for 20 million people, around a fifth of the country’s 107 million population, said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
“Once the vaccine is available I am sure can fully open,” Dominguez said.
The Philippines has Southeast Asia’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections after Indonesia, with cases jumping nearly five-fold to 89,374 and deaths more than doubling to 1,983 since a tough lockdown was eased in June.