The Philippines will ease health restrictions in the national capital starting Thursday, September 16, supposedly to spur economic activity despite record infection numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Restaurants, churches and beauty salons will open at lower capacities in Metro Manila to get tens of thousands more people back to work.
“We should strive for total health and this can only be realized by carefully balancing our COVID-19 response by considering both the health of our people and the economic health of the nation,” said government spokesman Harry Roque.
The government will be launching what it described as localized lockdowns in the capital that will be accompanied by five alert levels designating the range of businesses allowed to operate.
If successful, the same formula could be applied across the Philippines, which is battling one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
In Metro Manila, outdoor dining will be allowed at 30 percent capacity, and indoor dining for small groups of fully immunized people.
Lowest number of cases in 2 weeks
On Wednesday, September 15, the country recorded 16,989 more COVID-19 cases, the fewest in almost two weeks or since September 2.
The relatively fewer COVID-19 cases can be attributed to the “lower laboratory output” on Monday, said the health department in its daily advisory.
The country now has 2,283,011 total reported coronavirus infections, including 170,446 active cases. There were also 214 new fatalities, raising the total number of deaths to 35,742.
Positivity rate is at 25.9 percent based on test results of 57,034 individuals on Monday.
The independent OCTA Research group said Metro Manila’s virus reproduction number dropped slightly, although the region continues to post an average of more than 5,000 cases each day.
The reproduction number, which refers to the number of people that each case can infect, stood at 1.34 this week, down from 1.39 seven days ago, according to the group.
104 healthcare workers die
A total of 104 healthcare workers have succumbed to the coronavirus disease, according to data from the Department of Health.
Based on the latest situational report, a total of 24,284 healthcare workers have tested positive for the illness as of September 13.
Of this, a total of 23,814 have recovered and 366 are still undergoing treatment.
The health department said 221 of the active cases are experiencing mild symptoms, 95 are asymptomatic, 21 are in severe condition, 20 are in moderate condition, and nine are critical.
Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila celebrated Mass on Wednesday to honor “frontliners,” especially those who succumbed to the disease.
The Archdiocese of Manila said the celebration “recognizes and values the heroic acts” of all “frontliners,” especially those who put their lives at risk to help and attend to the needs of others.
“Thank you for your service,” said Father Hans Magdurulang, parochial vicar of San Felipe Neri Parish, where Cardinal Advincula celebrated Mass.
“The Church is with you in the mission to teach people to believe in the importance of following instructions and the need for unity,” said the priest.
“The pandemic is not a blessing, but it brought a lot of gifts. Aside from the vaccine and aid to people, it also brought faith in God who will save the world,” said Father Magdurulang.
Alert Level 4
Starting Thursday, Metro Manila will be under Alert Level 4, the second highest alert level but with a relative easing on economic activities.
The World Health Organization’s representative in the Philippines on Tuesday warned against relaxing curbs.
While six of 10 adults in the capital are fully inoculated, “this is not adequate at this point to relax quarantine positions,” said WHO representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe.
“If there is a further increase in the current transmission levels, it could lead to an overwhelming of the hospital systems, that’s why we need to be very careful in calibrating how we respond to the current situation,” he said.
Churches will be allowed to seat 10 percent of their capacity for services but other indoor group activities, including those that lead to crowding, remain banned. – with Wire reports