KUWTT: Covid cases swell to record 7,000 Mar 20, 2021

Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Saturday, March 20, 2021.

READ: Covid cases swell to record 7,000

The country notched its highest single-day increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases Friday, with 7,103 new infections recorded. The figure eclipsed the 6,958 cases tallied on Aug. 10, 2020, according to the Department of Health (DoH). The new cases pushed the total number of cases to 648,066. The 73,264 active cases were also the highest since August. Total recoveries were at 561,902, and the death toll was at 12,900.

READ: Local stocks take a dive as virus surges

Local shares plunged to a new low on Friday over concerns of more stringent government measures in response to the newest surge in Covid-19 cases. The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) slipped by 2.94 percent or 194.75 points to an intraday low of 6,436.10 while the broader All Shares fell by 2.39 percent or 95.68 points to end at 3,909.41. PSEi’s almost 3-percent slump is its second biggest so far this year, following the 3.49-percent last January 29 that was triggered by the exodus of foreign funds and growing economic recovery concerns.

READ: PH signs deal for 20 million Moderna doses

THE government has signed a tripartite agreement with a private group led by business tycoon Enrique Razon and American drugmaker Moderna for 20 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid-19 and the country’s vaccine czar, signed the deal with Razon, chairman of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), and Patrick Bergstedt, Moderna senior vice president. Under the agreement, the government secured 13 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, and the private sector ordered another 7 million doses for its frontline workers. Moderna said it was working on an emergency use authorization (EUA) so it could roll out its vaccine in the country.

READ: Concepcion asks govt: Start jabbing economic frontliners

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Jose Maria Concepcion 3rd is calling on the government to start vaccinating economic frontliners to allow the economy to bounce back from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking at the “Bakit Bakuna?” webinar on Friday, Concepcion said that because economic frontliners were not on the government’s vaccination priority list, the economy cannot expect to recover by the fourth quarter of the year. He has urged the country’s vaccination czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. to allow companies to start inoculating their employees once the procured vaccines arrive in the latter part of the year.

READ: Govt urged to address ‘double pandemic’

Health reform advocate and former special adviser to the National Task Force Against Covid-19 Dr. Tony Leachon on Friday warned of the threat of a “double pandemic,” saying the country was so focused on Covid-19 but oblivious of the dangers of other diseases. He urged the government and stakeholders to establish satellite hospitals for noncommunicable cases because the majority of patients are hesitant to go to hospitals for consultation for fear of catching Covid-19.

READ: Run for VP in 2022, Duterte urged

The call for President Rodrigo Duterte to run for vice president in the 2022 national elections gathered an “avalanche” of supporters as more than 70 local government officials representing multiparty and multisectoral groups in the province of Pangasinan recently signed a petition to urge him to continue his socioeconomic objectives disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic by running for the country’s second-highest office in next year’s polls. Vice Gov. Mark Ronald Lambino cited Pangasinan’s “confidence in President Duterte’s continued leadership to speed up and achieve the recovery of the economy, given that the province was badly hit by the pandemic especially its tourism sector.”

READ: Govt restricts mass gatherings in GCQ areas

THE government has tightened its measures on mass gatherings in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) until April 4 to curb a surge in Covid-19 infections, Malacañang said on Friday. In a virtual press briefing, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said religious gatherings in GCQ areas would be limited to 30 percent venue capacity, provided that there was no objection from local governments. Previously, up to 50 percent capacity was allowed for religious gatherings. Roque said meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibition events would also be limited to “essential” business gatherings at 30 percent capacity of venues in GCQ areas. The maximum venue capacity of dine-in restaurants, cafes, personal care services will also be lowered to 50 percent, he said.

BUSINESS: Current account surplus hits $13B

Topping business, the country’s current account posted a $13-billion surplus last year, the biggest since 2005, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The latest figure reversed the $3.1-billion deficit in 2019. Based on latest available central bank data, the 2020 current account surplus was also the highest since 2005.

SPORTS: Jawo on his way to recovery

In sports, basketball’s “The Living Legend” Robert Jaworski Sr. is on his way to recovery from an illness. The Jaworski family set the record straight on Friday amid rumors that the Big J’s health is getting worse. Jaworski’s family also made it clear that the former PBA MVP and senator did not contract the coronavirus.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Yen Makabenta and Ramon Tulfo are today’s front page columnists. Makabenta continues to discuss the debates on the 500th anniversary of the circumnavigation of the world, while Tulfo urges everyone to be wary on news from the internet.

Today’s editorial believes the Philippines’ internet shortcomings should be considered an emergency. Read the full version on the paper’s Opinion Section or listen to the Voice of The Times.

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With Dafort Villaseran, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. May you have a safe weekend ahead.