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Duterte allows companies to buy coronavirus vaccines

Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte said he would let private companies import coronavirus vaccines amid a slow rollout of the government’s vaccination program.

“I have ordered Secretary Carlito Galvez to sign any and all documents that would allow the private sector to import at will,” he said in a televised speech on Monday night. “Whatever amount they want,” he said in Filipino.

The private sector would be allowed to buy vaccines immediately because state vaccine supply had been limited amid a “ruckus” in the global vaccine trade, Mr. Duterte said.

The government had prevented companies from importing coronavirus vaccines unless it was in coordination with the Health department.

Mr. Duterte also approved a subsidy for poor households after he placed Manila, the capital and nearby cities and provinces under a weeklong strict lockdown until April 4 amid a fresh surge in infections. About 23 million Filipinos would get P1,000 in aid each, he said.

Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite were placed under a weeklong enhanced community quarantine this week to ease pressure on dwindling hospital beds amid a spike in daily cases.

Active coronavirus cases in the Philippines may almost quadruple to 430,000 by the end of April if stricter quarantine measures were not imposed, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Monday.

Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal were at “critical risk” given the swift rise in infections, while Laguna is at high risk, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing.

DoH reported 10,016 coronavirus infections on Monday, the highest daily tally since the pandemic started last year.

Monday’s tally surpassed the 9,838 cases reported on Friday, bringing the total to 731,894, it said in a bulletin.

The death toll rose by 16 to 13,186, while recoveries increased by 78 to 603,213, it said in a bulletin.

There were 115,495 active cases, 95.9% of which were mild, 2.4% did not show symptoms, 0.7% were critical, 0.7% were severe and 0.41% were moderate.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said Santiago City and Quirino province in northern Philippines would be placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine starting next month.

The Cordillera Administrative Region, Isabela, Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya and Batangas would be placed under a general community quarantine. 

Also placed under a general lockdown were the cities of Tacloban, Iligan and Davao and Lanao del Sur province, he said.

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