Philippines task force supports ease of Manila’s strict lockdown
MANILA (Asia) – The Philippines saw its biggest spike in coronavirus cases on Thursday with 539 new infections recorded, just after a panel recommended the president ease one of the toughest and longest lockdowns in the world for residents in the capital Manila.
The fresh cases brought the nationwide tally to 15,588, of which 921 have led to deaths. The numbers are expected to rise further, the health ministry said, as it ramps up testing to meet its target of 30,000 daily COVID-19 tests.
President Rodrigo Duterte will announce a decision on Thursday whether to lift strict restrictions on commerce and movement to reduce damage to the economy, which is facing its deepest contraction in 34 years.
The economy unexpectedly shrank 0.2% in the first quarter and is expected to fare worse in the second quarter.
Manila’s lockdown will this weekend surpass the 76-day quarantine of Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first outbreak of the coronavirus was detected.
Mobility data from Apple for people driving shows how sharply activity slowed in the Philippines and how low it has remained compared to countries which also imposed tough lockdowns such as Italy and India.
If approved, the more relaxed rules will be in place from June 1 to 15, and local officials can still place communities deemed as high risk under lockdown.
Health authorities have conducted nearly 290,000 tests since January, equivalent to about 0.26% of the 107 million population.
Under the recommendations, gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. Workplaces, shops and some public transportation will reopen and movement in and out of Manila will be permitted.
Schools, universities, tourist destinations and dine-in restaurants will stay closed, however, while stay-at-home orders will remain for the elderly and children.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)