Philippines Considers Lockdown Extension and Expansion

·2-min read
LAS PINAS, PHILIPPINES - MARCH 31: General view of an empty highway on March 31, 2020 in Las Pinas, Metro Manila, Philippines. The Philippine government has sealed off Luzon, the country's largest and most populous island, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Land, sea, and air travel has been suspended, while government work, schools, businesses, and public transportation have been ordered shut in a bid to keep some 55 million people at home. The Philippines' Department of Health has so far confirmed 2,084 cases of the new coronavirus in the country, with at least 88 recorded fatalities. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)
General view of an empty highway on March 31, 2020 in Las Pinas, Metro Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

By Claire Jiao and Andreo Calonzo

The Philippines is crafting a stimulus package as it weighs extending a monthlong lockdown in the main island of Luzon to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The government will prioritize the most affected 18 million households, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. Companies will also receive assistance, he said on Tuesday.

“This planned stimulus package is already being crafted and will be responsive to the uncertainties of the situation,” Dominguez said in a statement, without elaborating. “At this point, nobody knows how bad this pandemic will get or how long it will last.”

Governments across the world are unveiling unprecedented fiscal stimulus as the global economy reels from the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns spreading to countries like India and South Africa. In the Philippines, central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno has warned of a recession this year.

The Philippines on Tuesday reported 538 new virus cases – the highest daily jump in the number of infections – bringing the total to 2,084, including 88 deaths.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government has yet to decide if the enhanced community quarantine set to end on April 12 will be terminated, extended or expanded to include more areas. The Department of Health will set the parameters of the decision, Nograles said.

“In this discussion, science is in charge,” Nograles said in a televised speech on Tuesday, rejecting rumors that a decision to extend the quarantine by 60 days has been made.

The government is looking into converting passenger ships, hotels, a convention center and a sports complex into quarantine facilities. Food and financial assistance for poor households will be released in the coming days.

The Agriculture Department will import 300,000 metric tons of rice to ensure sufficient supply, and may buy the same volume again for contingency, Nograles said.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.