Lockdown extended on Philippines’ largest island until April 30

President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the business community on Monday night to extend financial support to impoverished Filipinos amid the health crisis. (AP Photo)
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Updated 07 April 2020

Lockdown extended on Philippines’ largest island until April 30

  • In his message on Monday, Duterte asked for public patience and cooperation, especially from those who were severely impacted by the lockdown
  • Recognizing the impact of the crisis on the economy, Duterte reiterated his call to individuals and organizations to help the most vulnerable

MANILA: The Philippines on Tuesday extended a lockdown in Luzon until April 30 to limit the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country’s largest island.

In an address to the nation late on Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was “inclined to extend” the lockdown and appealed for cooperation as the government grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which came into effect on March 15, was set to end on April 12.  

However, on Tuesday morning, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesperson for the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF MEID), said in a virtual press briefing that the president had accepted the IATF’s recommendation to extend the ECQ by another two weeks.

“That was [the IATF] recommendation to President Duterte, which he accepted and announced last night. After his announcement, we verified it again, and the answer was that the ECQ would be hereby extended until 11:59 pm of April 30,” Nograles said, adding that the extended lockdown “would give the government enough time to increase its public health response.”

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said he fully supported the move which he described as an “inevitable course of action in the effort of the national government to contain COVID-19.”

Año said the decision was based on the advice of health experts from the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

He added that to rush the easing of the ECQ in a time when the number of COVID-19 cases is fluctuating is a gamble that the government is not willing to take.

“We all want everything to go back to normal, yet we cannot risk further transmissions or a relapse. This extension is part of the effort of the national government to flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmissions in the country,” Año said.

As of Tuesday, the number of infections rose to 3,764 in the Philippines, with 104 new cases reported.

The latest DOH report also indicated 14 new deaths, bringing the total mortalities to 177, while 84 patients had recovered from the disease.

Año said that reports from both the government and the private sector show that an extension of two weeks would ensure that the pandemic is “contained and manageable by our health care system.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said that the extension until April 30 “seems to be reasonable because the DOH has no clear projection yet of how things are evolving.”

“Better safe than sorry,” Sotto said, emphasizing the need for the government to improve the distribution of emergency subsidies to affected families.

Earlier, the task force had spelled out the parameters that would be considered — such as trends in the COVID-19 epidemiological curve, the capacity of the healthcare system, as well as social, economic, and security factors — before arriving at a decision.

In his message on Monday, Duterte asked for public patience and cooperation, especially from those who were severely impacted by the lockdown.

“Once again, I am asking the utmost cooperation of the public in these trying times,” Duterte said as he urged people to strictly observe home quarantine, wear face masks, and practice social distancing.

He also rallied for national unity and prayer as the country observes the Lenten Season during the pandemic.

“This being the Holy Week, I am calling on the nation to come together this Wednesday afternoon and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Filipino and unite in one prayer to God to fight our common enemy,” Duterte said.

“God is the only one who can really solve the problem for us,” he said.

Recognizing the impact of the crisis on the economy, Duterte reiterated his call to individuals and organizations to help the most vulnerable, stressing the issue of limited government resources.

“Private companies must assist the government during the current health emergency,” Duterte said, adding that “continued uncertainty will impact on everyone.”

On Sunday, Malacañang confirmed that many members of the president’s cabinet had pledged to cut 75 percent of their monthly salaries from April to December this year toward the country’s anti-virus measures.

Others have volunteered for a salary deduction for the entire duration of the lockdown to help in the government’s efforts to halt the spread of the disease.

Malacañang spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president is also donating his one month’s salary for the cause, while other officials with the rank of secretaries are giving portions of their respective wages to facilitate the initiative. More than 200 members of the House of Representatives, as well as the Senate, are doing the same.


US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

Updated 18 min 58 sec ago

US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

  • Europe is sitting on a wealth of data that is the 21st century equivalent of a precious metal mine
  • Europeans may be allowing American tech giants to gain control of all the excavation equipment

PARIS: Europe is sitting on a wealth of data that is the 21st century equivalent of a precious metal mine during the gold rush.
But instead of exploiting it themselves Europeans may be allowing American tech giants to gain control of all the excavation equipment, some experts say, pointing to a flurry of European companies announcing deals with US tech players for cloud services.
Renault, Orange, Deutsche Bank, and Lufthansa recently plumped for Google Cloud. Volkswagen signed up with Amazon Web Services. The French health ministry chose Microsoft to house its research data.
The cloud is a term for offering data storage and processing services externally so clients don’t need to invest as much in costly gear.
This trend has sparked concern particularly in Germany, which has a rich trove of data thanks to its powerful industrial sector.
The EU is “losing its influence in the digital sphere at the moment it is taking a central role in the continent’s economy” warned a recent report by a group of experts and media leaders under the leadership of the former head of German software firm SAP, Henning Kagermann.
“The majority of European data is stocked outside of Europe, or, if stocked in Europe, is on servers that belong to non-European firms,” it noted.

A senior French official recently delivered an even more blunt assessment in a meeting with IT professionals.
“We have an enormous security and sovereignty issue with clouds” said the official at the meeting, which AFP attended on the condition of respecting the anonymity of participants.
“In many cases it is convenience or a sellout” by European companies and institutions “because it is simpler” to sign up with US tech giants than find European options, said the official.
“However we have very good firms offering cloud and data services,” he added.
One of the causes of concern for Europeans comes from the Cloud Act, a piece of legislation adopted in 2018 that gives US intelligence agencies access in certain cases to data hosted by US firms, no matter where the server may be physically located.
“My company is American and I know very well what the implications are of the legislation,” said a Franco-American executive.
“And given what is happening in US policy debates, that situation won’t be getting better.”
Beyond the integrity of data, it is the capacity to analyze and exploit that information that worries many European experts and policymakers.

If in Europe “we are just capable of generating data and need others to exploit it then we are going to end up in the same situation as countries with mineral resources that rely on others to process it and end up with meagre economic benefits,” said the French official.
The French and Germans unveiled in June the GAIA-X project that aims to develop a competitive European cloud offer.
Rather than encourage the development of a European champion — in the mold of Airbus in response to Boeing — that would offer the full gamut of services, the project takes a different tack.
It aims to set standards so different firms could offer storage, processing, security and artificial intelligence services seamlessly. It would operate as a marketplace of sorts where each client could find the services they need without having to leave European jurisdiction.
It is hoped GAIA-X’s decentralized model might prove a better fit with the issues raised by treatment of data from connected devices.