At least seven million Filipinos lost their jobs due to the lockdown imposed in mid-March to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Philippines Acting Socio-economic Planning Secretary, Karl Chua, said on Friday.
Chua disclosed this at a virtual media briefing in Manila.
“As a result of the enhanced community quarantine, we shut down 75 per cent of the economy.
“This resulted in the contraction of the country’s gross domestic product by 0.7 per cent in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2019.
“The economy further contracted 16.5 per cent in the second quarter,” he said.
“The unemployment rate reached 17.7 per cent. It means that seven million people lost their jobs,” Chua said.
The secretary added that the spike in the unemployment rate was a consequence of the strict lockdown measures that restricted movement of people and shut businesses.
Before the epidemic, the Philippines was one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia.
Chua said on Thursday that as local transmission of the virus surged in March, the Philippines made the very difficult decision of placing a large part of the economy in lockdown because the priority was clearly to save lives from COVID-19.
Chua said that some 59,000 to 171,000 lives were saved.
“However, this has come at a great cost to the economy,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Philippines re-imposed stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) on Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal for two weeks due to the spike of cases in those areas.
“Reverting back to MECQ may be one step back for the country’s economic recovery, but the government remains committed to addressing immediate challenges without losing sight of our medium-and long-term goals,” Chua said.
He said that the return to MECQ was an opportunity to address new challenges brought about by the deadly virus.
“If we use this time well, we can improve our healthcare system and pave a stronger foundation for the resumption of the economy,” Chua said.