By Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez
THE COUNTRY should expect a second wave of coronavirus infections as more industries reopen under a relaxed lockdown, a congressman said on Sunday, as 208 new cases were reported, raising the total to 12,513.
“A second wave is expected and we’re preparing for it,” Albay Rep. Jose María Clemente S. Salceda told DZBB radio, adding that the government had to count the economic costs of a lockdown.
The country has lost about P1.2 trillion in economic output because of the Luzon-wide lockdown that started in mid-March.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the main island, suspending classes, work and public transportation to contain the pandemic. He extended the so-called enhanced community quarantine for the island twice until May 15, and thrice for Metro Manila, key cities and regions until the end of the month.
The presidential palace yesterday warned the public not to be complacent after receiving reports of crowded malls on the first day of relaxed lockdown rules in many parts of the country at the weekend.
“We advise the public not to be complacent and to follow health protocols set by authorities,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said in a statement.
“We must understand that we have started to slowly ease restrictions in order to revitalize the economy, and not because we are safe,” he added.
Also yesterday, the Department of Health (DoH) said the death toll from the virus rose to 824 after seven more patients died. Seventy-four more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 2,635, it said in a bulletin.
Of the 208 new cases, 174 came from Metro Manila, one from Central Visayas and 33 were from the other regions, it added.
Thirty laboratories have been licensed to test COVID-19 samples, DoH said.
Meanwhile, the agency released return-to-work rules for places not under the enhanced community quarantine.
Under a memo dated May 11, employers must cut the number of people in the workplace by adopting work-from-home arrangements.
Employers must also measure the body temperature of their workers and monitor symptoms. Workers must wear protective equipment depending on work settings.
Companies must also check the travel history or exposure in the past 14 days of employees reporting for work.
The memo also includes quarantine guidelines for workers.
Under the rules, employers who choose to test employees may do so “in a representative sample of those who have returned to work physically and have a high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of the work,” citing frontliners as an example.
An inter- agency made up of Cabinet secretaries kept the cities of Cebu and Mandaue under an enhanced community quarantine.
Metro Manila — where the virus is concentrated — along with the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales and Laguna were placed under a modified lockdown until May 31.
The modified lockdown allows more sectors to reopen with a 50% skeletal workforce.
About 2% or 191,963 of more than 100 million Filipinos have been tested, according to DoH.
The government seeks to boost its testing capacity to 30,000 samples daily by the end of the month, as it more than doubles accredited labs 66.
The government will buy more than a million polymerase chain reaction and rapid antibody test kits, apart from receiving kits from donor countries including China.