MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday the economy should be reopened soon, calling for a quick vaccination of millions as the country reported the highest daily increase in COVID-19 infections for nearly six months.
The Philippine economy was among the fastest growing in Asia before the COVID-19 pandemic, but strict and lengthy restrictions to limit coronavirus contagion have dampened consumer spending and left millions jobless.
“I have to reopen the economy. I have given a timetable of just weeks,” Duterte said in a speech at a provincial airport inauguration. “The economy must be opened in a short while.”
It would reopen if millions, especially those living around big cities, are already vaccinated, the firebrand leader added.
The Philippines, which has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, started its vaccination programme on March 1 with 600,000 Sinovac shots donated by China.
The health ministry on Thursday recorded 3,749 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily increase in cases in nearly six months, and 63 additional deaths.
Authorities have warned the public not to be complacent and continue to practice physical distancing to avoid the spread of the virus accelerating further.
The Philippines aims to inoculate 70 million of its 108 million population to achieve herd immunity and facilitate a reopening of the economy, which suffered a record slump in 2020.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies and Mark Heinrich)