Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19: Philippines lifts lockdown in Manila as virus surges

AFP, Reuters/Manila
Filed on September 6, 2021

The move to ease restrictions from Wednesday comes after nationwide daily cases exceeded 20,000 for the past three days.

The Philippines will lift a stay-at-home order in the capital Manila this week as it trials “granular lockdowns”, an official said on Monday, in a bid to rein in coronavirus cases and revive the economy.

More than 13 million people in the national capital region — the country’s economic heartland — have been in lockdown since August 6 amid record infections fuelled by the hyper-contagious Delta variant.

The move to ease restrictions from Wednesday comes after nationwide daily cases exceeded 20,000 for the past three days — double the number at the start of the latest lockdown — straining hospitals as they grapple with a nurses shortage.

“Localised lockdowns will be piloted in Metro Manila,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque, explaining that a household, building or street could be targeted.

“It will be literally a complete lockdown if you are subject to granular lockdown — even the food will be delivered to you.”

Roque said localised lockdowns, which President Rodrigo Duterte approved in principle, will be pilot tested in the capital region with guidelines on when and how they will be implemented released on Tuesday.

There were no further details about how the more targeted measures would be enforced.

The lighter restrictions in the national capital region, which accounts for about a third of the country’s economy, will enable many hard-hit businesses to reopen and spur local tourism.

Based on previous guidelines, restaurants will be allowed to accept diners and beauty salons permitted to operate — albeit at reduced capacity.

Limited numbers of faithful will be allowed to attend in-person church services.

President Rodrigo Duterte said recently the country could not afford more lockdowns, after previous measures shattered the economy and left millions out of work.

But with only about 19 per cent of the targeted population fully vaccinated and hospitals filling up fast, authorities have had few options to slow the spread of the virus.

The Philippines exited recession in the second quarter after five consecutive quarters of GDP contraction.

But a renewed surge in Covid-19 cases forced authorities to impose stricter curbs in August, leading to a cut in this year’s economic growth outlook to 4.0 per cent to 5.0 per cent, from 6.0 per cent to 7.0 per cent previously.

Daily cases in the past 30 days alone accounted for more than a fifth of the country’s total infections of over 2.1 million, while deaths have exceeded 34,000.

The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated about 12 per cent of its 110 million people against Covid-19, leaving millions still vulnerable.

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