An aerial view shows minimal traffic at a roundabout in Quezon City, during a two-week lockdown following an increase in cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Metro Manila, Philippines August 9, 2021. Image taken with drone. Reuters/Adrian Portugal/Files
September 14, 2021
MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ capital region will exit widespread coronavirus restrictions from Thursday, as the government begins a pilot trial of local lockdowns amid efforts to reopen the economy and balance the spread of the coronavirus.
Officials said the localized lockdown will be accompanied by five alert levels specifying the category of businesses allowed to operate, including activities targeted at fully vaccinated individuals.
If successful, the same formula could be applied across the Philippines, which is battling one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
Changes in the government’s COVID-19 strategy could soon pave the way for the reopening of indoor recreational facilities in areas with limited face-to-face school classrooms and low virus transmission and adequate hospital capacity.
Under Secretary of Health Maria Rosario Vergeri told a briefing that from Thursday the alert level in Metro Manila would be changed, allowing outdoor dining at 30% capacity and indoor dining for small groups of fully immunized people.
Religious gatherings and personal care services will be allowed at 30% of the construction capacity.
The capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to 13 million people, is the country’s coronavirus epicenter, accounting for a third of cases and one in every four deaths. Government data shows that three-fifths of the region’s population has already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
After the shift some health professionals called for tighter restrictions to give sprawling hospitals the breathing space.
“As of now, the cases are still rising. It’s just like the Olympics, we’re waiting to see when we set a new record high,” Geneve Rivera-Reyes, a public doctor, told Reuters.
Metro Manila’s total infections in the past 30 days alone accounted for a fifth of the country’s total of 2.2 million cases, while total deaths reached 35,145.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davis)