A surge of new cases has led to a lockdown that affects nearly a quarter of the island nation.
The Philippines has prolonged its Easter lockdown as the country sees a surge in new COVID-19 cases. The lockdown was reinstated during Holy week and will now extend through the first week of Easter. The government is urging its citizens to be patient while they wait for more vaccinations.
According to the Associated Press, the Philippines is reporting more than 10,000 new cases per day. The belief is that this flood of infections is due to variant strains of COVID-19. This extended lockdown will help stem the spread in the nation’s capital, Manila, as well as four surrounding provinces. The lockdown affects 25 million people, roughly a quarter of the Philippine population.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque expressed surprise over the influx of cases. He told the AP:
“No one could have probably foreseen how infectious these new variants are and as a result of which we have these ballooning numbers.”
Hospitals at capacity
The report goes on to note that many hospitals are now announcing that they have no more room for walk-ins. The government’s Lung Center in particular was reporting doubled capacity in their emergency room. Other hospitals have said they could expand capacity, but these lack medical staff to care for more patients.
The problem is not that the hospitals are understaffed, but that staff members are sick with COVID-19. Workers in medical fields are at most risk of contraction and for this reason they are first in line for vaccination. Dwindling stores of the vaccine, however, have put the Philippines in dire straits.
In a report from The Hill, the government official heading up the country’s vaccination program, Carlito Galvez, noted that the country has only received one vaccine batch, in February. The much needed medical supplies came in a donation from China. Since then, the Philippines has struggled to secure more. Galvez said:
“Do not worry. Our goal is still to ensure that everybody will be vaccinated. But while we do this, the government is prioritizing healthcare workers as they are the most exposed and the most at risk of getting COVID.” He added, “More vaccines will arrive, we are sure of that. We just have to wait for our turns to be vaccinated.“
The country is experiencing this surge during the celebration of 500 years since Christianity arrived in the Philippines. Pope Francis marked the occasion with a special Mass on March 14. The faithful in the Philippines celebrated the anniversary on Easter Sunday, from their homes, as churches moved Masses online due to the pandemic.