Philippines’ Duterte calls for patience amid anger over COVID-19 pandemic response

Philippines’ Duterte calls for patience amid anger over COVID-19 pandemic response
Elderly residents wait for their turn to get the AstraZeneca vaccine after the government imposed a stricter lockdown to cope with a surge in infections. (AFP)
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Updated 31 March 2021

Philippines’ Duterte calls for patience amid anger over COVID-19 pandemic response

Philippines’ Duterte calls for patience amid anger over COVID-19 pandemic response
  • Tough-talking leader admits country’s vaccine struggle ‘almost makes me cry’

MANILA: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has appealed for “patience and understanding” amid growing criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of 13,191 people across the country.

In a televised address late Monday, the tough-talking former mayor of Davao City told Filipinos that the government was “doing its best to manage the health crisis,” before admitting that it was “difficult” to procure vaccines.

“If only I had in my power a magic wand to make our problems disappear, I would do it,” Duterte said, adding: “I’m grappling with the issue of coronavirus. It takes most of my time actually ... looking for ways and ... where we can get vaccines.”

The leader said that the challenges his administration faced in procuring vaccines were “almost making me cry.”

He added: “If you only knew, I’m like passing through purgatory at this time until I am able to help all Filipinos. I want to cry in front of you, but I’ve run out of tears.”

Duterte warned that worldwide vaccine distribution was “unfair,” saying that “it is not easy to have access to jabs when you are on the poor side,” before accusing some countries of having “shanghaied” the global vaccine supply.

“We are not allowed to mention the names of the countries, but there’s something. There’s a ruckus going on, and the fight for vaccine possession is ongoing. It’s a very serious one,” he said.

He appealed to Filipinos for patience, given that the Philippines is not a vaccine producer.

“We have to understand the government. We are doing our best. We are not a vaccine-producing country. We don’t have the expertise and we don’t have the medical or scientific knowledge. So we’re just waiting,” he said.

As a secondary plan, the Philippines government has given private entities the go-ahead to import coronavirus vaccines “at will” for employees.

“I have ordered Secretary Carlito Galvez to sign any and all documents that would allow the private sector to import at will,” Duterte said, adding that dozens of businesses have shown interest in buying vaccines for workers.

His comments came days after intense public criticism over a government decision to place the Philippines capital and four surrounding provinces under strict lockdown for a week amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

Close to a quarter of the country — almost 25 million Filipinos — are affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the highest level of lockdown.

Filipinos took to social media over the weekend to air their grievances over the Duterte administration’s “failure” and “incompetence” in fighting the pandemic. Trending hashtags on Twitter included #Duterte Resign and #DutertePalpak (Duterte is a failure).

Twitter user Jomarie Sauquillo said: “Going back to ECQ again shows the incompetence of his government. We’re just following an unbreakable cycle.

“It’s our right as Filipino citizens to complain and demand!”

In another tweet, user Kamil_Anne said: “After a year and trillions in debt, this is still what the government can come up with.”

In response to the criticism, Duterte said that several other countries were following similar protocols amid new surges in coronavirus infections.

“Did the government have any lapses? Did the government do anything? The truth is, the countries of Ukraine, France, Germany, Poland and Italy are also under lockdown,” he said.

As of Tuesday, the Philippines Department of Health reported 9,296 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number over the course of the pandemic to 741,181.

Of the total cases, 603,310 people have recovered from the disease, while the number of active cases now stands at 124,680.


Indian coronavirus cases surge again as health system founders

Indian coronavirus cases surge again as health system founders
Updated 18 min 4 sec ago

Indian coronavirus cases surge again as health system founders

Indian coronavirus cases surge again as health system founders
  • Daily infections hit 332,730 on Friday, up from 314,835 the previous day when India set a new record
  • Deaths in the past 24 hours also jumped to a record 2,263, the health ministry says

MUMBAI: India reported the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus cases for the second day on Friday, surpassing 330,000 new cases, as it struggles with a health system overwhelmed by patients and plagued by accidents.
Deaths in the past 24 hours also jumped to a record 2,263, the health ministry said, while officials across northern and western India, including the capital, New Delhi, warned most hospitals were full and running out of oxygen.
The spike in cases came as a fire in a hospital in a suburb of Mumbai treating COVID-19 patients killed 13 people on Friday, the latest accident to hit a facility in India crowded with people infected with the coronavirus.
“The fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Virar is tragic,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter, approving payouts for the victims’ relatives.
On Wednesday, 22 COVID-19 patients died at a public hospital in Maharashtra state when their oxygen supply ran out after a leak in the tank. At least nine coronavirus patients died in a hospital fire in Mumbai on March 26.
Daily infections hit 332,730 on Friday, up from 314,835 the previous day when India set a new record, surpassing one set by the United States in January of 297,430 new cases. The US tally has since fallen.
Delhi reported more than 26,000 new cases and 306 deaths, or about one fatality every five minutes, the fastest since the pandemic began.
Medical oxygen and beds have become scarce, with major hospitals putting up notices saying they have no room for any more patients and police being deployed to secure oxygen supplies.
Max Healthcare, which runs a network of hospitals in northern and western India posted an appeal on Twitter on Friday for emergency supplies of oxygen at its facility in Delhi.
“We regret to inform that we are suspending any new patient admissions in all our hospitals in Delhi ... till oxygen supplies stabilize,” the company said.
Similar desperate calls from hospitals and ordinary people have been posted on social media for days this week across the country.
Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan in the United States, said it was now as if there was no social safety net for Indians.
“Everyone is fighting for their own survival and trying to protect their loved ones. This is hard to watch,” he said.
In New Delhi, people losing loved ones are turning to makeshift facilities that are undertaking mass burials and cremations as funeral services get swamped.
Amid the despair, recriminations have begun.
Health experts say India got complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control, and lifted restrictions to allow big gatherings.
“Indians let down their collective guard. Instead of being bombarded with messages exhorting us to be vigilant, we heard self-congratulatory declarations of victory from our leaders, now cruelly exposed as mere self-assured hubris,” wrote Zarir F Udwadia, a pulmonologist and a member of the Maharashtra state government’s task force, in the Times of India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government ordered an extensive lockdown last year in the early stages of the pandemic.
But it has been wary of the economic costs and upheaval to the lives of legions of migrant workers and day laborers of a reimposition of sweeping restrictions.
A new more infectious variants of the virus, in particular a “double mutant” variant that originated in India, may have helped accelerate the surge, experts said.
Canada banned flights from India, joining Britain, United Arab Emirates and Singapore blocking arrivals.
Britain said it found 55 more cases of the Indian variant, known as B.1.617, in its latest weekly figure, taking the total of confirmed and probable cases of the variant there to 132.
India, a major producer of vaccines, has begun a vaccination campaign but only a tiny fraction of the population has received a shot.
Authorities have announced vaccines will be available to anyone over 18 from May 1, but experts say there will not be enough for the 600 million people who will become eligible.
“It is tragic, the mismanagement. For a country known to be the pharmacy of the world, to have less than 1.5% of the population vaccinated is a failure difficult to fathom,” Kaushik Basu, a professor at Cornell University and a former economic adviser to the Indian government, said on Twitter.


Duterte’s daughter stays top in poll on Philippine president candidates

Duterte’s daughter stays top in poll on Philippine president candidates
Updated 31 min 38 sec ago

Duterte’s daughter stays top in poll on Philippine president candidates

Duterte’s daughter stays top in poll on Philippine president candidates
  • About 27 percent of 2,400 respondents would vote for Davao city mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio above 13 other suggested candidates

MANILA: The daughter of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has topped the latest opinion poll on preferred presidential candidates for an election next year, a contest she insists she has no interest in joining.
The survey by the independent Pulse Asia, conducted between Feb. 22 and March 3, showed 27 percent of 2,400 respondents would vote for Davao city mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio above 13 other suggested candidates.
It was the second successive time Sara Duterte, 42, has topped Pulse Asia’s survey on potential leaders.
She recently told Reuters there was no chance she would run next year. Her father has also stated publicly that she should not enter the race.
But few in the Philippines are convinced amid a flurry of social media activity and unofficial campaigns backing her to succeed her father, who cannot seek re-election under the country’s constitution.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the country’s late dictator, was in second place in the poll, with 13 percent of the vote.
Senator Grace Poe, who ran against Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 election, and Manila city mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, were both third with 12 percent, and global boxing icon and Senator Manny Pacquiao trailed them with 11 percent.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a former human rights lawyer who leads the main opposition and is a staunch rival of Duterte, trailed that group, with 7 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. None of the 13 suggested candidates have formally declared their interest in the presidency.
The election is more than a year away, and political analysts have said that a great deal could change prior to the May 9 polls.


Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics

Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics
Updated 23 April 2021

Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics

Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics
  • An official declaration of the emergency is expected later Friday
  • The measure will coincide with the annual Golden Week holiday, Japan’s busiest travel period

TOKYO: Japan’s government is to declare virus states of emergencies in Tokyo and three other regions on Friday, exactly three months before the Olympic opening ceremony, as new infections surge.
The measures will be stricter than Japan’s last state of emergency, imposed in parts of the country from January, but still fall short of the harsh lockdowns seen in some parts of the world.
“We have a strong sense of crisis,” Japan’s minister for virus response Yasutoshi Nishimura said Friday.
The measures will ask businesses serving alcohol to shut or stop serving alcohol between April 25 to May 11, and also shutter major commercial facilities such as shopping malls and department stores.
An official declaration of the emergency is expected later Friday – with the measure expected to cover Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo regions initially.
Previous emergencies have been expanded to other areas after being announced, and experts say the term may be extended if the spread of the virus continues.
“We will take strong, brief and focused emergency measures,” said top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato, calling restaurants “key points of infection” after an expert advisory panel endorsed the proposal.
The measure will coincide with the annual Golden Week holiday, Japan’s busiest travel period. It could involve cutting some train and bus services to discourage movement.
Authorities in affected regions are also likely to bar spectators from sports events – but officials have been insistent that the emergency measures will have no impact on staging the Olympics.
Although the measures won’t start until Sunday, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike urged citizens to start observing them right away.
Japan has seen a comparatively small COVID-19 outbreak, with fewer than 10,000 deaths despite never imposing the strict lockdowns seen in other countries.
But cases surged over winter and have rebounded after the previous state of emergency was lifted in March.
Tokyo on Thursday recorded 861 new infections, figures not seen since January, while Osaka logged 1,167 cases, slightly down from a record number a day earlier.
Authorities in Osaka have said health facilities there are already overwhelmed, with beds for seriously ill patients running short.
Japan’s vaccine program is moving slowly meanwhile, with just over 1.5 million people given a first shot and only around 827,000 fully vaccinated.
Only the Pfizer vaccine has so far been approved, and approvals for the Moderna and AstraZeneca formulas are not expected before May at the earliest.
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, said requests from local authorities for vaccine doses from May 10 had exceeded planned supply.
“I am sorry. There has been an overflow” of demand, Kono said Thursday, adding that a higher-than-expected uptake could result in swift vaccination of Japan’s elderly.


Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact

Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact
Updated 23 April 2021

Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact

Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact
  • Late Thursday, the military said it picked up signs of an unidentified object with high magnetism at a depth of between 50 and 100 meters

BALI, Indonesia: Indonesia’s desperate search for a missing submarine and its crew of 53 honed in on a radar contact Friday, with just hours to go before the stricken vessel’s oxygen reserves ran out.
The ramped-up hunt comes as Australia and the United States are set to join the search off the coast of Bali where the sub disappeared more than two days ago during training exercises.
Late Thursday, the military said it picked up signs of an unidentified object with high magnetism at a depth of between 50 and 100 meters (165 to 330 feet).
Ships equipped with sonar-tracking equipment were deployed in the hopes that the object could be the KRI Nanggala 402, which was equipped with oxygen reserves that could last until early Saturday, authorities said.
“We’ve only got until 3:00 am tomorrow (Saturday) so we’re maximizing all of our efforts today,” said Indonesian military spokesman Achmad Riad.
“Hopefully there will be a bright spot.”
But an oil spill spotted where the submarine was thought to have submerged pointed to possible fuel-tank damage, fanning fears of a deadly disaster.
There are also concerns that the submarine could have sunk to depths believed to be as much as 700 meters (2,300 feet) – well below what it was built to withstand.
The German-built vessel was scheduled to conduct live torpedo exercises when it asked for permission to dive. It lost contact shortly after.
On Thursday, the US military said it would send airborne teams to help in the search, while Australia said two ships were on their way to assist.
Neighboring Singapore and Malaysia have already dispatched ships that are expected to arrive at the weekend, including the city-state’s MV Swift Rescue – a submarine rescue vessel.
India said Thursday it had sent a ship to assist in the hunt.
But hopes of finding the crew alive were fading fast.
“If there is serious damage on the boat itself, it could potentially mean a few things, for example, there will be very limited spaces for the crew with very limited oxygen,” said Collin Koh, a naval affairs specialist and research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“It could also mean that the reserve tanks for the oxygen might potentially be damaged as well. So it will further reduce the oxygen level.”
Submarines are equipped to prevent carbon dioxide buildup, but if the equipment was damaged that could also pose a serious risk, Koh added.
“It’s not just about whether there will be enough oxygen, but it’s also about the level of carbon dioxide within the interior that could determine the fate of the submariners,” he said.
While Indonesia has not previously suffered a major submarine disaster, other countries have been struck by accidents in the past.
Among the worst was the 2000 sinking of the Kursk, the pride of Russia’s Northern Fleet.
That submarine was on maneuvers in the Barents Sea when it sank with the loss of all 118 aboard. An inquiry found a torpedo had exploded, detonating all the others.
Most of its crew died instantly but some survived for several days – with a few keeping heart-breaking diaries written in blood to their loved ones – before suffocating.
In 2003, 70 Chinese naval officers and crew were killed, apparently suffocated, in an accident on a Ming-class submarine during exercises in 2003.
Five years later, 20 people were killed by poisonous gas when a fire extinguishing system was accidentally activated on a Russian submarine being tested in the Sea of Japan.
And in 2018, authorities found the wreckage of an Argentine submarine that had gone missing a year earlier with 44 sailors aboard.


Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute

Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute
Updated 23 April 2021

Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute

Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute
  • Town sheriff says the videos show the victim was threatening Deputy Andrew Hall and was possibly throwing rocks at drivers
  • Video released on day Hall was charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Filipino man in 2018
SAN FRANCISCO: A white sheriff’s deputy in the San Francisco Bay Area shot and killed a Black man in the middle of a busy intersection about a minute after trying to stop him on suspicion of throwing rocks at cars last month, newly released video showed.
Graphic body camera footage showing Deputy Andrew Hall shooting Tyrell Wilson, 33, within seconds of asking him to drop a knife was released Wednesday, the same day prosecutors charged Hall with manslaughter and assault in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Filipino man more than two years ago.
The charges came a day after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing George Floyd, a Black man whose death last May helped spark a national reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality.
The new video in California shows Hall calling out to Wilson and walking toward him March 11 as Wilson walked away. Wilson eventually turns to face the deputy, holding a knife, and says, “Touch me and see what’s up.”
As they stand in the intersection, Hall asks him three times to drop the knife as Wilson motions toward his face, saying, “Kill me.” Hall shoots once, and Wilson drops to the ground as drivers watch and record video.
The entire confrontation lasted about a minute.
An attorney for Wilson’s family released another video Thursday taken by someone stopped at the intersection.
“It doesn’t seem like he was doing anything,” someone says. After Hall shoots Wilson, which can be clearly seen in the video, another person says, “Oh, my God. ... This dude just got shot and killed, bro.”
Attorney John Burris said Hall was unnecessarily aggressive toward Wilson, who was not causing any problems and was backing away from the deputy before he was shot without warning.
“This is a homeless man, he’s walking away, minding his own business. He’s basically saying go away, leave me alone,” Burris said. “You felt compelled to kill him.”
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston said the videos show Wilson was threatening Hall and was possibly throwing rocks at drivers.
“He did threaten Officer Hall,” Livingston said. “And he did start advancing toward Officer Hall in the middle of a major intersection. Officers are forced to make split-second decisions to protect themselves and the public, and that’s what happened here.”
Prosecutors have faced intensifying outcry after Wilson’s death, with critics saying they took too long to make a decision in the 2018 killing that Hall carried out. The deputy shot 33-year-old Laudemar Arboleda nine times during a slow-moving car chase.
Burris, who also is representing Arboleda’s family, said that if prosecutors had acted more quickly in the Arboleda case, Wilson might still be alive. Burris said both men were mentally ill.
The Contra Costa County district attorney’s office said it charged Hall with felony voluntary manslaughter and felony assault with a semi-automatic firearm in Arboleda’s death.
“Officer Hall used unreasonable and unnecessary force when he responded to the in-progress traffic pursuit involving Laudemer Arboleda, endangering not only Mr. Arboleda’s life but the lives of his fellow officers and citizens in the immediate area,” District Attorney Diana Becton said in a news release.
Hall’s attorney, Harry Stern, said prosecutors previously deemed the deputy’s use of force in the 2018 case justified, “given the fact that he was defending himself from a lethal threat. The timing of their sudden reversal in deciding to file charges seems suspect and overtly political.”
Deputies slowly pursued Arboleda through the city of Danville after someone reported a suspicious person in November 2018. Sheriff’s department video shows Hall stopping his patrol car, getting out and running toward the sedan driven by Arboleda. Hall opened fire and kept shooting as Arboleda’s car passed by, striking him nine times.
Hall testified at an inquest that he was afraid Arboleda would run him over.
The district attorney’s office says Wilson’s shooting is being investigated.