Philippines Extends Manila’s Lockdown on Surging Infections

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte approved a proposal to extend a lockdown in Manila and nearby provinces by at least a week as the country’s active coronavirus cases reached the highest in Southeast Asia.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno pledged to continue supporting the economy after already providing more than 2 trillion pesos ($41.2 billion) in liquidity through various stimulus measures since the pandemic hit last year.

“The BSP will keep the accommodative monetary policy stance as long as it’s necessary,” he said in a mobile-phone message on Sunday.

The national capital region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal will remain under enhanced community quarantine from April 5 to 11, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Saturday. The strictest restriction on movement, originally intended to be in effect only for a week to April 4, is intended to control a new surge in infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and been traced mainly to increased public mobility and new Covid-19 variants.

Coronavirus cases rose by 11,028 on Sunday, bringing the total to 795,051, the second most in Southeast Asia, the Department of Health said. Intensive care capacity in Metro Manila’s hospitals remained at high risk levels, with 78% of beds utilized. Active cases hit a record 165,715, the most in the region, on Saturday before easing to 135,526 the next day.

The government will decide in a week if the capital and nearby areas can shift to a looser lockdown so more businesses can reopen, Roque said. With the hard lockdown, only essential industries such as hospitals and food manufacturers are allowed to operate at full capacity, while residents may leave their homes only for essentials and are barred from holding mass gatherings.

The continued lockdown in the capital region and surrounding area could drag the economy by less than 1% of GDP per week, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. economist Michael Ricafort wrote in a note on Sunday.

Although the extension of the strictest quarantine has been widely expected and may have already been priced in by the markets shortly before the Easter break, “there may still be some residual market reaction after the fact,” Ricafort said.

Economic managers are scheduled to meet on April 8 to review growth targets as they assess the impact of the strict movement curbs reimposed from March 29.

The Philippines, which implemented one of the world’s longest lockdowns last year, suffered its worst-ever recession in 2020, prompting economic managers to push for a sustained reopening and targeted restrictions rather than a hard lockdown. Gross domestic product shrank 9.5% last year.

Manila and the four outlying provinces, with a population of about 26 million, account for some 60% of the nation’s total virus cases. Metro Manila contributes to more than a third of the national output.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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