Duterte to relax coronavirus curbs in capital region

August 20, 2021 - 9:49 AM
Manila in lockdown
An aerial view shows minimal traffic in a main thoroughfare in Quezon City, during a two-week lockdown following a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, in Metro Manila, Philippines August 9, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. (Reuters/Adrian Portugal)

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday approved the easing of coronavirus curbs in the capital region from August 21 to 31, his spokesperson said, even as the country reported its second-highest daily number of COVID-19 infections.

The Philippines is battling a renewed surge in infections and deaths, partly driven by the more contagious Delta variant, overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers.

The capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities with more than 13 million people, will be placed under the second-strictest level of coronavirus restrictions, after being on tight lockdown since August 6, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“These latest classifications are without prejudice to the strict implementation of granular (local) lockdowns,” Roque said. He didn’t say what would happen after August 31 or when any decisions would be made on whether to continue with the less tight controls.

The looser restrictions will allow higher operating capacity in some businesses, but indoor and al fresco dining services and religious gatherings will remain prohibited.

The Philippines‘ health ministry on Thursday confirmed 14,895 new coronavirus infections, the second-highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, and 258 fatalities.

Active cases hit 111,720, a near four-month high.

With more than 1.79 million cases and 30,881 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest level of COVID-19 infections and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

Lengthy and strict quarantine curbs last year badly hit the consumption-driven Philippine economy, one of the fastest growing in Asia before the pandemic.

The latest two-week lockdown in the capital region prompted the government to cut its gross domestic growth target to between 4.0% and 5.0% this year, from between 6.0% and 7.0%. —Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Holmes