Asia Today: Duterte extends virus calamity status by a year

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

Duterte first placed the country under a state of calamity in March when the number of confirmed infections was approaching 200 with about a dozen deaths. The country now has more than 290,000 confirmed cases, the highest in Southeast Asia, with nearly 5,000 deaths.

The tough-talking president lashed anew at critics in his televised remarks late Monday for accusing his administration of not doing enough to contain the outbreak.

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

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.

Quarantine restrictions such as social distancing remain as they are now.

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

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— South Korea has added 61 coronavirus cases, its lowest daily increase since mid-August amid a downward trend in new infections. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Tuesday the additional cases took the country’s total to 23,106, including 388 deaths. It’s the third day in a row that South Korea’s daily virus tally has stayed below 100. South Korea had experienced an uptick in new infections, mostly in the greater Seoul area, since early last month, before its caseload recently began slowing under stringent physical distancing rules.

— South Korea’s prime minister tested negative for the coronavirus on Tuesday after a person working in his office was infected. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun’s office said he underwent the test even though he hadn’t come in contact with the staff member since last Wednesday. Officially, Chung is South Korea’s No. 2 official and has been playing a leading role in government-led efforts to contain the coronavirus. Executive power in South Korea is concentrated in the president.