Manila stays in lockdown as Duterte eases curbs

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte talks during a meeting at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines. The Philippine president says a massive lockdown that has restricted millions to their homes will be eased but warned those who will be allowed to go back to work to follow safeguards to avoid more deaths and a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks. (AP)
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Updated 12 May 2020

Manila stays in lockdown as Duterte eases curbs

  • Move to restart economy ravaged by anti-virus measures

MANILA: The Philippines will begin easing coronavirus restrictions in areas of the country except the capital Manila and two other densely populated regions, which will remain in lockdown for at least another two weeks.

At a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that a modified quarantine will replace the total lockdown imposed across Luzon island on March 16 to limit the spread of the deadly disease.

“It is a transition phase, and we envision that after one month we will all transition to a general quarantine,” Roque said.

The modified quarantine will allow day-to-day operations at government offices, and some manufacturing and processing plants, with a maximum of 50 percent of the workforce. However, schools will remain closed.

The move is part of the government’s efforts to restart the economy, which has suffered huge losses since President Rodrigo Duterte placed Luzon under lockdown.

“There is a need to balance biosafety and the economy,” Roque said. “If no economic interventions are applied, the consequences will be more damaging than the effect of the coronavirus,” Roque said.

The decision to ease restrictions was taken during Duterte’s meeting with a task force overseeing the fight against coronavirus on Monday night.

Duterte agreed to continue the lockdown in Manila, neighboring Laguna province and Cebu City in the Visayas — three high-risk areas — until May 31. 

Moderate-risk areas will be placed under a general quarantine until the end of the month, while restrictions will be lifted in low-risk areas such as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The general quarantine, with more relaxed measures, allows the operation of government offices and industries with a maximum 75 percent workforce, limited transport services to support government and private enterprises, and flexible learning arrangements for students. 

Roque said that in relaxing quarantine measures, the government was following the World Health Organization’s recommendations to prevent a second wave of infections.

Meanwhile, Carlito Galvez, Jr., chief of the national task force fighting the coronavirus, said that “in the absence of a vaccine, all we can do is prevent and contain it, and mitigate its impact.”

“The government cannot endure the (total lockdown) for an extended period as its resources are minimal,” he said. “It has to balance public health and the economy.”

In a recorded address to the nation on Tuesday, Duterte reiterated his call for people to adhere to anti-virus measures, adding that the lifting of the quarantine “does not mean the public will be safe from the highly contagious coronavirus.”

“The government’s approach in easing restrictions is gradual because we cannot afford a second or third wave (of infection),” he said.


US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.