Philippines Eases Movement Curbs in Manila Region, Surrounds

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte relaxed a lockdown in the Manila region and four neighboring provinces, as hospitals added capacity for patients infected by the coronavirus.

The national capital region and Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite provinces will be placed under so-called modified enhanced community quarantine until the end of April, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Sunday. Hospitals have added 3,156 beds for Covid-19 patients, he said.

The area -- the nation’s economic engines -- were placed under the most-stringent enhanced community quarantine for two weeks through April 11, as a record surge in infections filled hospitals.

Under loosened restrictions, most people are still required to stay home but more businesses will be allowed to operate while limits on those that have remained open will be eased, according to previous government guidelines. A nighttime curfew will be shortened.

The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index erased earlier gains Monday, and was down 0.1% as of 12:10 p.m. in Manila.

‘Wasted’ Restrictions

Movement curbs will be wasted unless longer-term solutions are put in place, including a single health-management system and quicker vaccinations, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 said Sunday, before restrictions were loosened.

Front-line staff in essential services including market vendors, drivers and workers at food and medicine factories may be vaccinated as early as May, Economic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said Monday. “It will really be a big help in safely reopening the economy,” she said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello has agreed to increase contact tracers in the capital region by 14,000 from 5,000, ABS-CBN News reported, citing Benhur Abalos, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Santiago City in Isabela and the provinces of Quirino and Abra, north of Manila are also placed under modified enhanced quarantine, Roque said. Other provinces are subject to less restrictive measures.

The Philippines has the most active coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia.

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