Duterte says PH may go back to 'early days' due to Delta threat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 26) — While the country cannot afford more lockdowns, it may go back to the “early days” if the threat of the Delta variant persists, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday.

"We cannot afford more lockdowns, lest our economy bleeds to the point of irreversible damage," Duterte said in his final State of the Nation Address.

"Delta, if ever it will spread, we have it here now, I hope it will not go any further, but if something wrong happens, I'll have to be strict...There will be (lockdowns) just like what happened in the early days," he added.

Early last year, Duterte placed Luzon under enhanced community quarantine for two months to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Duterte admitted he does not know how to handle the Delta variant, adding that he is awaiting the recommendation of local health experts on what measures to take.

"I really do not know what to do. I have to listen to the task force. This is a group of people...[who] would give you advice collectively," he said.

The Philippines so far has recorded 119 Delta variant cases.

The Department of Health earlier confirmed there is already a local transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant. Healthcare workers warned the Philippines may not be able to handle its severe impact, similar to what Indonesia is experiencing. The government, however, said it has been increasing the capacity of local hospitals as it prepares for a "worst-case scenario.”

Center for disease control

Duterte also appealed to Congress to pass a law creating the country’s own center for disease control and a virology institute.

“We have to pursue the creation of public entities dedicated to managing emerging and re-emerging diseases,” he said.

Several bills establishing the country’s CDC have been filed in Congress.

Senator Richard Gordon, one of the proponents of the measure, said the creation of a CDC and a virology institute should have been done decades ago.

“That is a step in the right direction, but should have been done 20 years ago,” he told CNN Philippines.

“It is time to have a machinery na talagang titignan [that will look] 20 years from now, where are we headed and we fine tune as we go along.”

For now, the President urged Filipinos to get vaccinated, as well as complete the recommended doses as scheduled.

He also asked for understanding from those who are next in line to receive the COVID-19 shots as he assured them that more vaccines will arrive in the country.

The government is expecting the arrival of a total of 36 million vaccine doses this month, he said.