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Manila Returning to Lockdown Amid Virus08/03 06:20


   MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- The Philippine president has agreed to place the 
capital and outlying provinces back under a lockdown after medical groups 
warned that the country was waging "a losing battle" against the coronavirus 
amid an alarming surge in infections.

   Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Monday that metropolitan Manila, the 
capital region of more than 12 million people, and five densely populated 
provinces will revert to stricter quarantine restrictions for two weeks 
starting Tuesday.

   The move, which finance and economic officials oppose, will again prohibit 
non-essential travel outside of homes.

   President Rodrigo Duterte relaxed the country's lockdown on June 1 in a bid 
to restart the stagnant economy.

   Under the new restrictions, police checkpoints will return to ensure only 
authorized people, including medical personnel and workers in vital companies, 
venture out of their homes, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said.

   Other businesses previously allowed to partly reopen, including barbershops, 
internet cafes, gyms, dine-in restaurants, massage and tattoo shops, drive-in 
cinemas and tourist destinations, will again be closed. Authorized companies, 
including banks, health and food processing firms, can operate partly but need 
to shuttle their employees from home and work. Workers can travel by bike, 
motorcycles and private cars, but mass transit will be closed.

   Businesses in the capital and outlying regions comprise about 67% of the 
national economy and the Duterte administration has walked a tightrope between 
public health and economic revival. The economy contracted slightly in the 
first quarter but is likely facing a deep recession from the massive business 
closures that started when Duterte declared a strict lockdown in mid-March.

   Leaders of nearly 100 medical organizations held a rare online news 
conference Saturday and warned that the health system has been overwhelmed by 
infection spikes and may collapse as health workers fall ill or resign from 
exhaustion and fear. They asked Duterte to reimpose a tight lockdown in the 
capital to allow the government to give health workers "a time out" and allow 
the government to recalibrate its response to the pandemic.

   "We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a 
consolidated, definitive plan of action," the groups said in a letter to 
Duterte that they read publicly.

   They expressed fears to Duterte that the Philippine coronavirus crisis may 
worsen like in the United States.

   The Department of Health reported a record-high daily tally of 5,032 
confirmed coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the country's total to 103,185, 
including more than 2,000 deaths. The Philippines has the second-highest number 
of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, and has had more reported 
infections than China, where the pandemic began late last year.

   While he granted the demand, Duterte appeared irritated after the medical 
groups went public with critical remarks, saying they could have talked to him 

   "If you will stage a revolution, you will give me the free ticket to stage a 
counter-revolution. How I wish you would do it," Duterte said in televised 
remarks Sunday night.

   "You yourself don't have any solution. What are you babbling about?" Duterte 

   He floated the idea of tapping civilian reservists to be placed under 
military control, including his daughter who is a city mayor and police nurses 
and medics, if exhausted doctors and nurses leave their anti-pandemic work.

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