The hard-hit Philippine capital and four nearby provinces have been placed under a lighter coronavirus lockdown to avoid further damage to an already battered economy despite a continuing surge in infections and deaths.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Metropolitan Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, a region of more than 25 million people, would remain under lighter restrictions up to the end of April after a two-week hard lockdown. An 11-hour night curfew has been shortened to nine hours in the Manila metropolis.
Most residents, except for workers in authorized businesses and medical and government law and order personnel will have to remain at home from Monday except for urgent errands like grocery runs and medical emergencies. Essential businesses will remain open, including hospitals, supermarkets, convenience stores and banks, but amusement parks, movie houses, cockfighting arenas, fitness gyms and beauty salons will remain shut.
“Our emerging strategy is to increase our bed capacities instead of closing the economy,” said Roque, who spoke in a televised news briefing from a Manila hospital after contracting COVID-19 like many Cabinet members.
The government has struggled to open more isolation and treatment centers after many hospitals were overwhelmed starting in March by the worst surge in coronavirus infections. More than 1,000 additional beds could now be used, many of them in the government-run National Center for Mental Health, officials said.
The Philippines has long been a Southeast Asian coronavirus hotspot, with about 865,000 confirmed infections and nearly 15,000 deaths.