President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday extended restrictions in the Philippines’ capital Manila until mid-August because of the continued high number of coronavirus cases, and said the government would work with the military to distribute a vaccine for the virus once it 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 and areas around it have been under some form of lockdown for months.
“My plea is to endure some more. Many have been infected,” Duterte said in a prerecorded television address that was broadcast on Friday morning.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the administration was looking to be more “innovative” in its response to the epidemic and would consider imposing “strict” localised lockdowns in neighbourhoods with a high concentration of cases.
Duterte said his government would work with the military to distribute vaccines, which he promised would be free if they became available by late this year, The poor would have priority and the Philippines would be given precedence by China in any 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 $400m 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 fivefold to 89,374 and deaths more than doubling to 1,983 since a tough lockdown was eased in June.