Philippines Pushes Back on Call for 2nd Manila Area Lockdown

The Philippine health department rejected a call by medical frontline workers to reimpose a two-week lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby areas, pointing to concerns following the nation’s worst economic slump in three decades even as new cases climbed by a record for a fourth day.

New Covid-19 cases rose by 5,032 on Sunday, bringing the total to 103,185, the health authority said. Deaths climbed by 20 to 2,059.

Groups of medical staff on Saturday appealed to the government to reintroduce the so-called enhanced community quarantine in the capital and nearby provinces for the two-week period to ease a rise in infections and allow health-care workers time to recover from exhaustion. They also called for a comprehensive policy to fight the pandemic and a central body that will oversee its implementation.

“The economy cannot be at a standstill and employment and livelihood are at the minds of millions of Filipinos right now,” the Department of Health said in a statement.

President Rodrigo Duterte directed the coronavirus taskforce to immediately act on concerns expressed by the doctors and nurses, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. Duterte met with his Cabinet on Sunday to discuss concerns of the medical workers, following one by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Saturday night with key officials, including the secretaries of health, trade and budget to debate the issue.

The increase in cases is being weighed against the impact seen from an earlier lockdown that shut businesses and curbed consumption, especially with the capital and nearby provinces accounting for about two-thirds of the nation’s economic output.

Like the Philippines, countries globally are facing the tough decision of shutting down businesses and imposing stay-home orders with a resurgence in the outbreak.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently compared the idea of a second nationwide lockdown as a tool similar to a “nuclear deterrent,” is considering sealing off Greater London to avert a second national lockdown, according to news reports on Saturday.

To battle the spread of the virus, the Philippine health department said it will boost contact-tracing in industries with clusters of infections such as construction, transport and technoparks. It also reminded businesses that rapid tests aren’t recommended, and that employees should be screened for symptoms.

The Philippines, which implemented one of the earliest and longest lockdowns in Asia to stem the outbreak, eased restrictions in June to allow freer movement of people and the reopening of most businesses. Infections have since swelled five times, making it the country with the second-highest number of total infections in Southeast Asia.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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