Duterte 'inclined' to extend Luzon lockdown until April 30

MANILA, Philippines – With only days to go before the Luzon lockdown ends on Sunday, April 12, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is "inclined" to extend quarantine measures until the end of April.

"We are inclined to extend the lockdown until April 30. Tingnan natin (Let's see)," Duterte said on Monday night, April 6, in the final minutes of his televised briefing.

Before delivering his statement, Duterte said he did not know if the status of the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines has improved, as the situation changes "hourly."

There is only less than a week to go before the lockdown for the Philippines' largest island group ends on Easter Sunday, April 12. The lockdown has been in place since March 17 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

How is the outbreak in the country? The number of coronavirus cases in the country has surged in the past 3 weeks since the lockdown began. From 187 cases on March 17, there are now 3,660 cases as of April 6.

Health officials described the rise in cases as "artificial," attributing it to the increased number of tests being done.

Yet without mass testing and the Philippines' testing capacity hampered by backlogs, experts have warned that current data do not show an accurate and timely picture of the virus' spread in the country. The backlogs, former health secretary Manuel Dayrit said, mean current data released are about 7 to 10 days late – which is roughly how long it takes to receive test results.

Health experts have also said it is still too early to tell if strict quarantine measures have been effective in stopping the virus from spreading.

They projected cases could peak by mid-April, the original end date of the Luzon lockdown.

What's next? The government's coronavirus task force has not yet provided a definite date when they will announce the fate of the lockdown.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesperson of the task force, said a subgroup led by the Department of Health is still assessing effects of the lockdown on coronavirus cases.

In making the decision, the government will need to balance preventing a deadly surge in coronavirus cases and restarting the economy, as the poor go hungry.

Duterte said on Monday that the government's P200-billion allocation for social amelioration programs will not be enough to help low-income families through the lockdown.

The President will have the final say on whether or not the lockdown will be extended, modified, or lifted. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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