July 15, 2020 / 5:15 PM / in 21 days

Philippines extends partial restrictions in the capital to contain virus

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is enforcing partial coronavirus restrictions in the capital for another two weeks, and warned that stricter curbs would be reinstated if the rise in new cases and deaths does not slow down.

A healthcare worker takes blood sample from a passenger at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) drive-thru testing center in Manila, Philippines, July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

The Philippines this week recorded Southeast Asia’s biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths and saw hospital occupancy grow sharply, after a tripling of infections since a tough lockdown was eased on June 1 to allow more movement and commerce.

“It was clear during our discussion that if the spread of the virus in Manila will not slow, it is possible that stricter quarantine measures would be reimposed after two weeks,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said late on Wednesday.

Confirmed cases in the capital region have more than doubled to 29,015 since June.

Schools are to remain closed, operations of shopping malls and dine-in eateries limited, mass gatherings banned, social distancing enforced on public transport, and children and the elderly urged to stay at home.

Under tighter regulations in force from mid-March to the end of May, public transport was barred, working from home instituted where possible, and only one person per household allowed out for essential goods.

Meanwhile, Duterte eased lockdown measures in Cebu from July 16 after the central city recorded a decline in the number of confirmed cases, although it still accounted for 10% of the 58,850 total infections in the country.

Many parts of Asia, the region first hit by the coronavirus that emerged in China late last year, are pausing the reopening of their economies - some after winning praise for their initial responses to the outbreak.

Navotas, a city of 250,000 in the National Capital Region surrounding Manila, will from July 16 return to lockdown after cases tripled since June, its mayor said this week.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said earlier on Wednesday the government had “successfully flattened the curve since April” because COVID-19 cases were growing slower, with the rate of doubling of infections now at 8.28 days from 4.8 days in May.

To prevent wider transmission, the government said it would use police to carry out house-to-house searches for patients so they can be isolated and brought to quarantine facilities where they can be properly managed.

Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Alison Williams

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