By Neil Jerome Morales
MANILA (Reuters) -Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has lengthened coronavirus restrictions in the capital region and some provinces, his spokesperson said on Saturday, as the Southeast Asian nation logged a new record in daily COVID-19 infections.
The Philippines, which has among the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, is battling a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases driven by community transmission of the more infectious Delta variant.
“We expect the number of cases will continue to increase in the coming days,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a public briefing.
The health ministry recorded 19,441 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, notching a record-high for the third time in the past nine days. Total confirmed cases have risen to more than 1.93 million, while deaths have reached 33,008, after 167 more fatalities were recorded.
Active cases, at 142,679, were at a four-month high, overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers in coronavirus hotspots, health ministry data show.
“Improving vaccination coverage, shortening the duration of detection to isolation, and compliance of people to community healthcare standards would really help us stop the transmission in communities,” Vergeire said.
The government on Saturday extended the second-highest level of quarantine curbs in the capital region until Sept. 7. Although some businesses can operate at up to 50% on-site capacity, restaurant dine-in, personal care services and religious activities are still prohibited in the capital region, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
The capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to more than 13 million people, is the country’s coronavirus epicentre, accounting for a third of the 1.91 million confirmed infections and a quarter of the 32,841 total deaths.
Nine provinces and six cities facing a surge in cases and high healthcare utilisation were also placed under the second-tightest coronavirus curbs.
The government is pinning its hopes for an economic recovery on its inoculation programme, which started in March.
The Philippines has so far secured a total of 194.89 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, enough to inoculate about 100.5 million Filipinos or more than 100% of the country’s adult population, the finance ministry said.
Nearly 49 million doses have been delivered, while another 42 million will arrive in a month, said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, adding that the government could inoculate everyone by January.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales. Editing by Gerry Doyle)