Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to ease a mild COVID-19 lockdown in the capital and four outlying provinces to further reopen the country’s battered economy despite having the most reported infections in Southeast Asia.
Most businesses, including shopping malls and dine-in restaurants, and church services are to be allowed to partially resume today, with masks and social distancing required.
Duterte shifted Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, a region of about 25 million people, back to a mild lockdown two weeks ago after groups of doctors warned that hospitals were being overwhelmed again by COVID-19 patients and pleaded for a “time out.”
The Philippine Department of Heatlh yesterday confirmed 4,836 novel coronavirus infections, the seventh straight day of reporting more than 3,000 cases, and seven additional deaths.
In a bulletin, the department said total confirmed cases had increased to 169,213, while deaths had reached 2,687.
In other news, at least one person was killed and 43 injured when a magnitude 6.6 earthquake yesterday shook the central Philippines, sending residents fleeing their homes and damaging buildings and roads.
The shallow quake struck southeast of Masbate island in the Bicol region at 8:03am, the US Geological Survey said.
“There are a lot of damaged houses,” said Staff Sergeant Antonio Clemente in Cataingan, a town of about 50,000 people on the impoverished island several kilometers west of the epicenter in the Samar Sea.
“It was really strong,” he said.
Local radio station reporter Christopher Decamon said he saw emergency workers pull the body of a man from the rubble of a three-story house on the outskirts of Cataingan. The man’s wife escaped unharmed.
The quake “was really strong. Our people were broadcasting at the time, but they just ran out of the building,” Decamon said by telephone.
Police confirmed the man’s death. Sixteen people were also injured in the town.
In nearby Palanas, at least 27 people were injured after being hit by falling objects or when their motorbikes crashed as the ground moved in the town, municipal disaster officer Chris Adique told DZBB radio.
None were in a critical condition, he added.
Search and rescue efforts were still under way in the region.
Palanas police chief Captain Alvin Guerina said that several patients, including a pregnant woman about to go into labor, were evacuated from a hospital as a precaution in case of aftershocks.
So far, at least 24 aftershocks have been recorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, with the strongest registering at magnitude 3.8.
A video posted on Facebook and verified by Agence France-Presse showed light damage to a food market in Cataingan.
Overturned buckets and small fish were scattered on the ground and chunks of cement had fallen from a pillar. People stood outside on the street.
Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon tweeted photographs taken by his colleagues showing buildings in Cataingan with corrugated iron roofs fallen in.
Other photographs taken in nearby Uson Town show a sealed road with a large crack across it.
The quake was felt hundreds of kilometres away.
In the city of Iloilo about 400km southwest of Masbate, residents ran out onto the streets.
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