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Philippines extends virus blockade to economic center and four other areas adjacent to Metro Manila

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MANILA, April 4, 2021 (AFP): The Philippines will extend a coronavirus blockade to more than 24 million people, an official said late Saturday (April 3rd) after setting up tents and health workers in overcrowded hospitals in the capital, where cases are growing.

People in Metro Manila – the region of the national capital – and four neighboring provinces will have to stay home for another week if they are not essential workers, said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

The announcement came as the number of new infections in a single day reached a record high of 12,576, bringing the country’s load to more than 784,000, including over 13,400 deaths.

The more contagious variants of the virus and poor compliance with health protocols have been blamed for the increase in recent weeks.

“We call on local governments to strengthen the implementation of our quarantine measures and deal with people who fail to meet minimum health standards,” Roque said.

The independent research group OCTA said the extended weekly community quarantine imposed on March 29 was showing signs of slowing down the spread of the virus, “but we are not there yet”.

Spike has flooded many hospitals, with reports of people driving for hours through the vast capital, looking for a facility that could treat their ailing loved ones.

To increase capacity, the health department said modular tents were being distributed to hospitals across Metro Manila with the help of the World Health Organization and the UN children fund UNICEF.

“Volunteer” health workers from other regions where the virus transmission rate was low would be placed in hospitals in the capital in the coming weeks, he added.

Under restrictions affecting one-fifth of the country’s population, church services and other mass gatherings are prohibited, and a curfew is imposed from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential businesses are allowed to operate and outdoor exercises are allowed.

A previous blockade for several months crippled the Philippine economy, cost millions of jobs and left many families hungry.

The slow spread of vaccines and poor tracking of contacts have sparked criticism of the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, which has been accused of destroying its response to the pandemic.

By Thursday, 760,938 health workers had received their first dose, the health department said.

The government has previously said it intends to complete the inoculation of 1.7 million health workers by mid-April.

“Those who can get the vaccine need to be vaccinated themselves now,” Roque said. – AFP



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