Philippines defers new COVID-19 plan, maintains capital curbs

Health workers in hazmat suits walk outside the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital in Manila, Philippines, September 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

The Philippines capital region will remain under the second strictest coronavirus containment measures, a senior official said on Tuesday, despite a day earlier announcing a relaxation of curbs to spur business activity.

Imposition of the more relaxed "general community quarantine" in Metro Manila has been deferred, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, without giving a reason.

The decision means a delay in the government's planned shift to smaller and localised lockdowns, which Roque said had been approved in principle by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines has among the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Asia and has been battling an epidemic since March last year, which has hamstrung efforts to revive an economy that contracted more than 9% in 2020.

Cases in the past 30 days alone accounted for more than a fifth of the country's 2.1 million cases, while total deaths have exceeded 34,400.

The announcement of an extension of curbs will sour the mood of small business owners who were anticipating better times with a relaxation of restrictions from Wednesday.

Salon owner Ricklem Badiang had been looking forward to getting his business back and running after weeks without income.  

"We are hoping that we will have at least some customers because we owners have nothing left to shell out to pay for building rent and employee's pay," Badiang said before the government's announcement.

The Philippines, which exited recession in the second quarter after five consecutive quarters of gross domestic product contraction, is expected to grow slower than previously thought after a renewed surge in COVID-19 led to stricter mobility curbs in August

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Additional reporting by Adrian Portugal; Editing by Martin Petty)


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