Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to place the capital and outlying provinces back under a lockdown after medical groups warned that the country was waging “a losing battle” against COVID-19 amid an alarming surge in infections.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said that Metro Manila, the national capital region of more than 12 million people, and five densely populated provinces would revert to stricter quarantine restrictions for two weeks starting today.
The move, which finance and economic officials oppose, will again prohibit non-essential travel outside of homes.
Duterte relaxed the nation’s lockdown on June 1 in a bid to restart the stagnant economy.
Under the new restrictions, police checkpoints will return to ensure only authorized people, including medical personnel and workers in vital companies, venture out of their homes, Secretary of the Interior Eduardo Ano said.
Other businesses previously allowed to partly reopen, including barbershops, Internet cafes, gyms, restaurants, massage and tattoo shops, drive-in cinemas and tourist destinations, will again be closed.
Authorized companies, including banks, health and food processing firms, can operate partly, but need to shuttle their employees from home and work.
Workers can travel by bike, motorcycles and private vehicles, but mass transit will be closed.
Businesses in the capital and outlying regions comprise about 67 percent of the national economy, and the Duterte administration has walked a tightrope between public health and economic revival.
The economy contracted slightly in the first quarter, but is likely facing a deep recession from the massive business closures that started when Duterte declared a strict lockdown in the middle of March.
Leaders of nearly 100 medical organizations held a rare online news conference on Saturday and warned that the health system has been overwhelmed by infection spikes and might collapse as health workers fall ill or resign from exhaustion and fear.
They asked Duterte to reimpose a tight lockdown in the capital to allow the government to give health workers “a time out” and allow the government to recalibrate its response to the pandemic.
“We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” the groups said in a letter to Duterte that they read publicly.
They expressed fears that the Philippine COVID-19 crisis might worsen like in the US.
The Department of Health on Sunday reported a record-high daily tally of 5,032 confirmed cases, bringing the nation’s total to 103,185, including more than 2,000 deaths.
While he granted the demand, Duterte appeared irritated after the medical groups went public with critical remarks, saying they could have talked to him first.
“If you will stage a revolution, you will give me the free ticket to stage a counterrevolution. How I wish you would do it,” Duterte said in televised remarks on Sunday night.
“You yourself don’t have any solution. What are you babbling about?” he asked.
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