Philippines to Impose Stricter Lockdown in Metro Manila to Stem Delta-strain Infections

Marielle Lucenio and Basilio Sepe
Philippines to Impose Stricter Lockdown in Metro Manila to Stem Delta-strain Infections A Filipino policeman assists people as they line up to receive a shot of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, July 27, 2021.
[Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

The Philippines will place the national capital region and its 14 million people under a stricter lockdown next week to stem infections from a highly contagious COVID-19 variant, the president’s spokesman said Friday.

The shut down across Metro Manila, starting on Aug. 6 and going till Aug. 20, will cost the Philippines U.S. $4 billion and 440,000 people may lose their jobs, officials said. But vaccinations, they said, would continue during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), as the type of more stringent lockdown is known.

“It’s a painful decision because we all know that the ECQ is difficult, but it is necessary so we can avoid the shortages of ICU beds and other hospital requirements once cases start to surge due to the Delta variant,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a speech on television, referring to the coronavirus strain first detected in India earlier this year.

Delta-variant infections were on an upward trend, the state-run Philippine News Agency quoted Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez as saying Friday.

“In yesterday’s meeting, unfortunately, the numbers presented showed increasing Delta variant cases, especially in some cities in NCR [National Capital Region],” Lopez said.

“Some cities in NCR reported cases almost doubled in one day.”

Karl Kendrick Chua, the socio-economic planning secretary, said the economy was expected to lose more than a 100 billion pesos a week during the lockdown.

However, these losses “can be partly reversed if we use the three weeks to accelerate vaccination of everyone in the high risk areas,” he said in a statement.

“This way, the ECQ will be an investment to pave the way for a recovery once we control Delta spread,” Chua said.

According to him, President Rodrigo Duterte has also ordered cash aid for those living in areas under the lockdown, but details have yet to be announced.

On Friday, the health department said the country had recorded 8,562 new infections, taking the total caseload to nearly 1.6 million. With 145 new virus-related deaths, the pandemic death toll rose to more than 27,700.

Also on Friday, the Philippines extended a ban on the entry of travelers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand until Aug. 15.

Vaccinations “an imperative solution”

Under the ECQ in Manila and its suburbs, only essential business and sectors such as hospitals, supermarkets, delivery services, manufacturing firms, and business process outsourcing are allowed to remain fully operational.

Indoor and outdoor dining will not be allowed, and indoor sports venues and tourist attractions will be shut, Roque said.

Only “authorized persons” – first responders, policemen, soldiers and other uniformed services, as well as those in the essential services sector – will be allowed out of their homes in Metro Manila and the outer lying provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal, according to the government guidelines.

Religious gatherings are banned, while wakes and funerals for those who died due to causes other than COVID-19 would be allowed in a limited manner, the guidelines said.

Vaccinations, though, have to – and will – continue, Roque said.

“With the looming threat of the Delta variant, there is no question that vaccinations even in areas under the enhanced community quarantine classification is an imperative solution,” he said.

The country had received 31.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Wednesday. Around 11 million people have so far received a first vaccine dose and 6.8 million have been fully vaccinated.

The Philippines has been in various stages of quarantine orders since March last year, and schools have remained shut.

Restrictions had been gradually been eased in a bid to spur economic activity, though the government has allowed local governments to determine how many restrictions to ease.

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City, southern Philippines, contributed to this report.


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