Philippines announces strict COVID lockdown in and around Manila

The measures will affect more than 24 million people, as more contagious COVID variants fuel a resurgence in cases.

Mass gatherings have been banned, night-time curfews enforced and non-essential businesses will be shut from Monday until April 4 [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

The Philippines will reimpose stricter quarantine measures in the capital Manila and nearby provinces, a senior official has said, as the country battles to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that is putting hospitals under growing strain.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Saturday that the measures – which would affect more than 24 million people – would be in place from Monday until April 4.

The tougher restrictions in the country’s economic heartland, which accounts for about a fifth of the population, come as more contagious variants of the virus fuel a resurgence in cases.

The week-long rules apply to Metro Manila and four surrounding provinces, which have already been placed in a travel bubble to try to prevent the spike from spreading across the country.

“The virus is the enemy, not the government,” Roque said.

“While we’re at home we expect the infection rates to slow. The government is ready to provide assistance.”

From Monday, people will have to work from home unless they are considered essential workers and public transport will be halted.

All mass gatherings will be banned, night-time curfews from 6pm to 5am will be enforced and non-essential businesses will be shut.

President Rodrigo Duterte also wanted to ramp up contact-tracing efforts and mass testing to identify the scope of people infected with the virus, Roque said.

Religious gatherings that were previously allowed to up to 10 percent capacity, are now also banned.

The lockdown comes as Filipinos, predominantly Catholics, anticipate the Holy Week rites and celebration ahead of Easter.

The health ministry on Saturday reported 9,595 new coronavirus cases, marking the second straight day that the daily jump in infections remained above 9,000. The country posted a record rise in three of the past five days.

Source: News Agencies