MANILA – The “total health” and welfare of the people are being considered in the government’s response to the current surge in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said Sunday.
“The issue we face now is not economy vs health. It is the total health of the people, whether from COVID, non-COVID sickness, or hunger,” Chua, also the chief of the National Economic and Development Authority, said in a statement.
The country on Saturday recorded 7,999 new virus cases, its highest daily number since the pandemic reached the islands last year, raising the cumulative total to 656,056.
Metro Manila, home to a tenth of the country’s population, accounted for 4,059 of the fresh cases and has 40,517 active infections, or a little over 50 percent of the nationwide total.
“We need to continue managing risks as COVID cases rise. We do this by focusing on localized quarantines and addressing the sources of highest risk, so that the jobs/livelihood of the far majority will not be affected,” Chua said.
He said the country’s virus cases did not spike during the holidays and when the economy gradually reopened in October.
“It was even on a generally downward trend. This was due to strict compliance with health standards and a gradual and careful approach to reopening,” he said.
Metro Manila’s general community quarantine, the second lowest in a 4-step measure, has resulted in 506,000 jobless residents, according to Chua.
He added that 3.2 million people experienced hunger in the capital region, which accounts for about a third of the country’s GDP.
“We also have much higher deaths due to non-COVID (illnesses) because many can’t afford treatment. High burden disease claims in PhilHealth is 75 percent down. We also have to look after their welfare,” Chua said.
The country’s economy last year registered a -9.5 percent growth, its first contraction since 1998’s 0.5 percent decline due to the Asian financial crisis.
The economic downturn was also worse than the 7 percent contraction recorded in 1984, making it the steepest post-war slump in Philippine history, using available PSA data dating back to 1947.

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