03/13/2020, 13.27
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Coronavirus: Duterte locks down Manila, receives Xi's offer of help

The Philippine president announced measures against the pandemic. Land, air and sea transport to and from the capital will be suspended from 15 March to 14 April. So far, 52 cases of COVID-19 infections and five deaths have been confirmed. Earlier this week, the government had only 2,000 test kits for 104 million people.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed a lockdown on the whole of Metro ​​Manila, home to 12.8 million people, to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Last night, during a televised speech to the nation, Duterte announced a series of measures including the closure of schools and a ban on gatherings.

Land, air and sea transport to and from the National Capital Region (NCR) will be suspended from 15 March until 14 April. The president also claimed that his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, wrote him a letter to offer assistance.

“If things deteriorate, I may have to call on China to help,” he said. “Maybe we will need your help, President Xi,” he added.

Duterte’s announcement comes as at least 15 senior Philippine officials and lawmakers decided to get tested or started home quarantine.

So far, Philippine health authorities have confirmed 52 cases with five deaths.

The Philippines, which has a population of about 104 million, had only 2,000 novel coronavirus test kits available earlier this week as the number of people who sought a diagnosis surged, assistant health secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday.

Health secretary Francisco Duque said that people could only be tested if they had travelled to a place with a local outbreak or if they had come physically close to an infected person.

The Health Department said another 2,000 kits will arrive from the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a test kit developed by the Philippine Genome Center at the University of the Philippines, which can be made more cheaply and provide results faster than imported kits.

The first 1,000 locally made kits are expected to be deployed on Friday, Philippine media reported.

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