Philippine capital, nearby areas to return to stricter lockdown as virus cases top 100,000

03, Aug. 2020

Metro Manila (Photo by Klaryss Puno on Unsplash)
Metro Manila (Photo by Klaryss Puno on Unsplash)

MANILA, NNA – The Philippine government will reimpose stricter stay-at-home orders on its capital and nearby provinces for another 15 days as coronavirus cases continue to surge, jumping to more than 100,000.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved again placing Metro Manila, and the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan under the second most stringent of the government’s four-level quarantine classification from Aug. 4 to 18, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement on Sunday.

The government will require people in quarantined areas to secure work and passes to minimize movement. Some businesses and public transportation, including railways, are expected to close.

The announcement came a day after medical groups called for the return of capital Manila to the highest of all quarantine classifications, as the country’s healthcare system is overwhelmed.

The president approved hiring of thousands of additional healthcare workers, and the distribution of additional benefits to them, Roque said, including risk allowance for private sector healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, payment of 10,000 to 15,000 pesos ($203 to 305) for every healthcare worker who gets sick, life insurance, free accommodation, free transportation, free and frequent testing.

“We are aware that you are tired, that you have worked almost even beyond 24 hours a day. But we have no one to turn to,” Duterte said to the medical groups in a televised speech Sunday after meeting his cabinet members.

The government will also distribute 20 million face masks for the poor and call the Armed Forces of the Philippines to active duty and enlistment.

Coronavirus cases have surged since the government relaxed restrictions on June 1. On Sunday, the Philippines recorded its highest daily recorded cases of 5,032. Its total number of cases stood at 103,185 with 2,059 deaths.

The Philippines has the second-highest number of cases in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

Prior to the president’s decision, Ramon Lopez, the secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, expressed opposition to calls for a return to the strictest lockdown.

Reimposing the strictest measures “would be damaging to people’s health–with unemployment and poverty affecting health and wellness and nutrition intake. It will also affect long-term health and capacity to learn for children,” Lopez said in a statement on Sunday.

“We need to manage and live with the virus which is here to stay. This means balancing health and the economy,” he said.

The Philippine economy shrunk by 2 percent in the first quarter of this year, its first contraction since 1998. Economists expect the economy to further contract in the second quarter, when full lockdowns were imposed.

After restrictions were further eased from June 1 through the end of July, businesses and public transport were allowed to operate at reduced capacity. During that period, the economy was operating at up to 75 percent, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.