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COVID-19: Philippine president considers re-imposing tight restrictions

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte might re-impose tight quarantine restrictions in the capital of Manila amid a spike in coronavirus infections and deaths, his spokesman said on Thursday.

“In a late-night meeting with an inter-agency task force on COVID-19 on Wednesday, health experts had recommended that public transportation, private offices, restaurants and commercial shops be shut down again in Manila,’’ presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

Roque said that the president agreed at first, however officials appealed to him because the mayors of Metro Manila promised they will step up localized lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.

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“They promised to intensify testing, tracing and treatment,’’ he said.

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Roque said Duterte agreed not to place Metro Manila under the stricter protocol, called modified enhanced community quarantine, MECQ, in the next two weeks.

“It was clear in the discussion that if the spread of the COVID-19 does not slow down in Metro Manila, it is possible that MECQ will be re-imposed after two weeks,’’ he added.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health said the country’s total number of COVID-19 cases was at 58,850, with 1,614 deaths.

Almost 50 per cent of the infections and 57 per cent of deaths were from Metro Manila.

Since June 1, the Philippine government has been easing the lockdown that was imposed in the country’s most populous island of Luzon, which encompasses Manila, and in other high-risk areas in mid-March.

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Limited public transportation has resumed, while shopping malls, salons, barber shops, restaurants, private offices and even some churches have also opened in a reduced capacity.

dpa/NAN

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