Philippine capital may return to strict lockdown if coronavirus continues to surge
MANILA, NNA – Metropolitan Manila is continuing its lenient movement restrictions from Thursday till the end of July, but may return to a stricter lockdown in two weeks if coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Infections in the Philippines have jumped more than three-fold to 58,850, including 1,614 deaths, as of Wednesday since stay-home orders in the sprawling capital were lifted and most businesses allowed to reopen starting June.
In a televised address late on Wednesday night, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the capital will stay under general community quarantine (GCQ), the third most lenient in the government’s four-level restriction classification which allows most businesses to operate.
Roque revealed that President Rodrigo Duterte initially wanted to reimpose strict stay-home orders and limit business activities in the capital after experts from the University of the Philippines estimated that infections may rise to 80,000 by end-July.
The president changed his mind after mayors in the highly populous capital region vowed to intensify targeted lockdowns and testing, Roque said.
However, he warned that the whole Metro Manila may come under a severe lockdown again if the spread of the virus does not slow down in the next two weeks.
In fact, some 250,000 residents in Navotas, one of the 16 cities in Metro Manila, have just returned to a lockdown this week after an alarming resurgence of cases.
The number of positive cases has been growing in the past few days due to increased community transmissions and improved testing capacity, said the Philippine Department of Health (DOH). The majority of new cases are in Metro Manila, which remains the key virus hotspot in the country.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of cases in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.
The World Health Organization has raised concerns over the unabated growth in the number of cases in the Philippines, causing COVID-19 wards in a number of hospitals to reach full capacity.
On July 7, Duterte said the Philippines could not afford to reopen the economy completely as this would lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
While the country is suffering from a severe economic recession, it is still considered one of the best performing economies, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles when he reported signs of recovery on Wednesday.
In the pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA), Nograles said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) managed to surpass its tax collection target for June by 4.4 percent, bringing the total to 42.539 billion pesos ($858 million).
Nograles also noted that Tokyo-based debt watcher Japan Credit Rating Agency Ltd., had given the Philippines an "A" for the first time in June.
The country scored “A-” with a stable outlook, which is a notch higher than the “BBB+”, the highest-ever rating the country had received previously.
“Even amidst the pandemic, international credit rating agencies have affirmed our sovereign ratings and have kept them at investment grade levels,” Nograles said, adding that the government had crafted plans to mitigate the coronavirus impact on the economy.
The pandemic continued to surge across the world on Wednesday, forcing several countries to delay reopening or impose new restrictions.