An informal settlement near Manila in the Philippines. Picture: REUTERS
An informal settlement near Manila in the Philippines. Picture: REUTERS

Manila — The Philippines will put its capital Manila back on a stricter lockdown starting Tuesday as coronavirus cases surged more than fivefold after easing its curbs in June.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved his cabinet’s proposal to tighten restrictions in metro Manila and nearby provinces for 15 days, following doctors’ recommendation to reimpose the lockdown as a spike in infections overwhelmed the health-care system.

Local virus cases rose again by a daily record to 103,185 on Sunday, the second-highest in Southeast Asia. A total of 2,059 have died from the outbreak.

The increase in cases is being weighed against the impact seen from an earlier lockdown that shut businesses and curbed consumption, especially with the capital and nearby provinces accounting for about two-thirds of the nation’s economic output.

Under the stricter quarantine, stay-at-home orders will be reimposed, and public transport, including air travel, will be halted. Malls except leisure shops and restaurants with takeout and delivery options can open with half of their workforce. Barber shops, salons and gyms would be shut.

Duterte approved the hiring of 10,000 medical professionals and the recommendation to issue work and quarantine passes to minimise movement, spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Days before the stricter lockdown was announced, finance secretary Carlos Dominguez said the Philippine economy — which is facing its deepest contraction in three decades — was starting to recover from its worst in April and May when the most stringent restrictions were imposed.

Countries globally are facing the tough decision of shutting down businesses and imposing stay-at-home orders with a resurgence in the outbreak.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently compared the idea of a second nationwide lockdown as a tool similar to a “nuclear deterrent”, is considering sealing off Greater London to avert a second national lockdown, according to news reports on Saturday.

Australia’s Victoria state tightened restrictions and declared a state of disaster. Melbourne was put under lockdown and a curfew, reports said.

To battle the spread of the virus, the Philippine health department said it will boost contact-tracing in industries with clusters of infections such as construction, transport and technoparks.

It also reminded businesses that rapid tests aren’t recommended, and that employees should be screened for symptoms.

The Philippines, which implemented one of the earliest and longest lockdowns in Asia to stem the outbreak, eased restrictions in June to allow freer movement of people and the reopening of most businesses.


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