MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday extended partial coronavirus restrictions in the capital, Manila, until the end of January to prevent the spread of COVID-19 following Christmas and holiday festivities.
The capital region, which accounts for 40% of the country’s economic output and is home to at least 12 million people, remains the coronavirus hotspot in the Philippines, which has the second highest infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.
In a national address, Duterte placed the capital region, his hometown Davao City and eight other areas under partial quarantine measures for the entirety of January. Less stringent restrictions will be enforced for the rest of the country.
“Stay home if it is really possible, if you can. It is for your own good,” Duterte said.
Interior Minister Eduardo Ano said on Monday there was no need to return to a hard lockdown as long as there was no proof that the new COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom had entered the country.
The capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities fused together, has been under partial curbs since August.
Physical distancing is enforced on public transport, and face masks and shields are required for anyone stepping out of their homes. Most businesses, including dine-in services, have been allowed to reopen at reduced capacity to support the economy.
Healthcare workers are bracing for a surge in infections following holiday merrymaking. The Philippines has 470,650 cases and 9,124 deaths from COVID-19, with around a thousand new infections reported daily.
The Southeast Asian nation is also preparing for the new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant which has been found in Britain and has rattled global financial markets, by extending a flight ban from Britain until mid-January.
It also requires passengers that come from or have transited in Britain and other countries that have reported finding the new variant to complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, regardless of test results.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Bernadette Baum)