Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

Record single-day jump in number of Covid-19 cases in Philippines

The Philippines reported another record single-day jump in infections yesterday as new restrictions took hold and people stocked up on food and cash.

Yesterday marked the first day of a new lockdown that will confine about 27 million people to their homes for two weeks and further strain the economy.

The Health Ministry tallied 6,352 new cases, bringing the country’s total caseload to 112,593. By comparison, Indonesia, which has the most number of cases in South-east Asia, has 115,056 infections.

Eleven more people in the Philippines died, raising the death toll from the pandemic to 2,115. The country is on track to pass Indonesia to become the new epicentre for the pandemic in South-east Asia.

The government yesterday restored tough shelter-at-home restrictions in Metro Manila and four densely populated provinces – Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite. Health workers had warned that the country was “waging a losing battle” against the coronavirus as cases spiked after restrictions were relaxed in June.

Overnight, checkpoints manned by policemen, soldiers and village watchmen were set up all over Metro Manila, home to some 12 million. These created choke points along major highways leading to the capital.

“We had to pass through several checkpoints, and there was traffic at every checkpoint,” said Mr Jeremy Encarnado, 40, who runs a food delivery business.

He said sentries were checking not only for travel passes, but also proof that those passing through had tested negative for Covid-19. Long queues were also seen for groceries and at public markets and banks.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said there was no need for panic buying as Metro Manila will not run out of rice, vegetables, fruits and meat any time soon.

In Quezon City, Metro Manila’s largest city, the head of a task force to promote discipline caused a stir when he issued “shoot-to-kill” orders on lockdown violators. He was promptly told to refrain from issuing “improper and illegal” statements.

Under the new restrictions, only authorised people, including medical personnel and workers in vital companies, can leave their homes.

Other businesses previously allowed to partly reopen, including barber shops, Internet cafes, gyms, dine-in eateries, and massage and tattoo shops, have again been closed.

27m

Number affected by the two-week lockdown in the Philippines.

6,352

Number of new coronavirus infections yesterday.

112,593

Total number of cases.

Authorised companies, including banks and food processing firms, can operate partly but need to shuttle employees between home and work.

Workers can travel by bicycle, motorcycle and private car, but mass transit is closed.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the government is not keen to extend the lockdown beyond two weeks. “I have to be honest. Our economy cannot withstand a long lockdown,” he said yesterday.

The economy stands to lose 12 billion pesos (S$337 million) a day during the lockdown, economist and Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo estimated.

Analysts forecast that the economy, once Asia’s fastest-growing, probably contracted by at least 8 per cent, mainly because of the sweeping lockdown from mid-March to June 1. The government will report gross domestic product figures for the second quarter tomorrow.

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