Manila, adjacent areas back to stricter restrictions

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to place Metropolitan Manila and the adjacent provinces back under the stricter enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) amid the spike in the number of new Covid-19 infections.

In a briefing on Saturday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the capital city and neighbouring Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will be placed under ECQ starting March 29 until April 4, reports Xinhua news agency.

Under the seven-day ECQ, Roque said the government will again impose ‘stringent limitations on movement and transportation of people’ in these areas.

There will be a ‘heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols’, including police checkpoints, he said, adding the government will conduct house-to-house visits to search for suspect Covid-19 cases actively.

Meanwhile, an 11-hour curfew will be imposed from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. during these seven days of ECQ in these areas.

Authorised persons such as essential workers, public transport, and cargo vehicles are allowed during curfew.

Roque said the government will assess the situation at the end of the seven days to decide whether to lift or extend the strict ECQ.

He explained the government was imposing tighter restrictions to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by cases while additional isolation facilities are being readied.

The announcement came after the Philippines’ coronavirus cases surge to new daily record. The Southeast Asian country reported on Saturday 9,595 new COVID-19 infections, raising the nationwide count to 712,442.

The death toll increased to 13,159 after 10 more patients died from the viral disease.

Metro Manila, located on the main Luzon island and with a population of about 13 million, consistently records the highest cases since the virus emerged in the country in January last year.

The Philippines has been in varying quarantine levels over the past year since the government imposed a lockdown in March last year.

The Philippine economy shrank 9.5 per cent in 2020 due to the prolonged impact of the global pandemic.