Philippines Imposes 1-Week Lockdown in Manila to Combat COVID-19 Infections

Jojo Riñoza and Luis Liwanag
Manila
2021-03-29
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Philippines Imposes 1-Week Lockdown in Manila to Combat COVID-19 Infections Residents in Mandaluyong City prepare to stock up on essentials on Sunday as the Philippines prepared to impose an “enhanced community quarantine” for Manila and nearby areas to run through Easter Sunday, March 28, 2021.
Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews

The Philippines imposed a one-week lockdown on heavily populated metropolitan Manila and nearby areas beginning Monday, the same day it received 1 million vaccine doses, as the government sought to contain the surging numbers of COVID-19 infections. 

The “enhanced community quarantine” announced on Saturday forces more than 24 million people inside their homes until Easter Sunday April 4, unless they are “essential workers” in the field of hospitals and banking, among others. 

“Like what I said last Saturday, all social gatherings are prohibited,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a virtual news conference on Monday.

“Unfortunately, all these variants made the disease more infectious and more transmissible. So I’d like to stress, it’s not just foreign variants. Even the Philippine variant now, that’s something that no one could have done anything about because it’s in the nature of viruses to mutate,” Roque said.

The government enforced a curfew between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. the following day, banned all mass gatherings including Holy Week church services when millions of Catholic Filipinos traditionally congregate at places of worship.

On Monday, the health department said it had logged 10,016 new daily COVID-19 infections, the highest so far logged in the Philippines bringing the pandemic toll to 731,894. The health department also recorded 16 deaths, bringing the toll to 13,186.  

Bangladesh recommendations

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, the government on Monday issued an 18-point directive imposing restrictions on social, political or religious gatherings following a spike in COVID-19 infections there.

Bangladesh recorded 5,181 coronavirus infections on Monday, its highest one-day total since the pandemic began.

In addition to the restrictions, public transportation, hotels and restaurants are limited to 50 percent capacity while meetings, seminars, trainings and workshops must be arranged online.

A family medicine specialist in Dhaka blamed the government’s decision to go forward with 50th anniversary of independence celebrations last week with having a role in Monday’s restrictions.

“The authorities did not pay attention to this rise as they were busy with state functions in celebration of the golden jubilee of independence,” Dr. Lelin Chowdhury said. “The 18-point directive that has come today is like chasing after the coronavirus. You could not run faster than the virus, which was urgent.”

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A huge cross greets mass goers at the door of a Catholic church in Manila as the Catholic nation marked Palm Sunday a day before the COVID-19 enhanced quarantine took effect in the capital city and nearby areas, March 28, 2021. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

Mutations

Roque said the lockdown was necessary because the virus has mutated, making it more difficult for health experts to address. He also sought to dispel doubts about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, saying the government was doing its best to acquire them.

“With more people getting sick, there will be more people inevitably who will get sick in a serious and critical manner, so have your vaccine if you are able to have it now,” he said. 

The nation began its inoculation program at the start of March, but had received only 1.12 million vaccine doses and had delivered the first dose to slightly more than 500,000 of the country’s 110 million people as of last week. 

On Monday, the government received 1 million vaccine doses purchased from Chinese manufacturer Sinovac. 

“We are expecting the delivery of around 1.5 million to 4 million of the remaining procured doses from Sinovac by April and May 2021, together with the 979,200 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the WHO-led COVAX facility,” said Carlito Galvez, a former general who is in charge of the government’s vaccine procurement.

“These will allow the country to further expand coverage of our vaccination program,” he said.

Jesmin Papri in Dhaka contributed to this report.

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