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Asia Today: Duterte extends virus status by a year

MANILA – President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte says he has extended the state of calamity by a year to allow the government to draw emergency funds faster to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to harness the police and military to maintain law and order.

Duterte first enacted the state of calamity in March when the number of confirmed infections was approaching 200 with around a dozen deaths. The Philippines now has more than 291,700 confirmed cases with more than 5,000 deaths. This is the highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia.

The president attacked critics in his televised remarks late Monday, correcting those who have said his administration has not done enough to contain the outbreak.

“What ‘enough’ do you want? There are hospitals, beds, and funeral parlors. Everything is there,” Duterte said, directing his tirade at Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition.

“You know Leni, if you want, if you really want to do away with COVID, let’s spray the Philippines or Manila over with pesticide to kill all,” Duterte said in his hometown of Davao City.

The state of calamity in place until September 2021 will be used mainly to draw emergency funds quickly anywhere in the country. Officials can also control the prices of basic commodities like rice and cooking oil.

Restrictions such as social distancing remain as they are now.

Duterte also announced the lifting of a ban on the deployment of Filipino nurses, doctors, and other heal workers with finalized work contracts abroad.

The Philippines is a leading source of global labor, especially medical personnel.

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