MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has eased a coronavirus lockdown in the bustling capital and adjacent provinces to fight the economic recession and hunger but still barred public gatherings this month, when many Roman Catholic summer religious festivals are held.
After an alarming surge in infections that started in March started to ease, President Rodrigo Duterte announced in televised remarks Thursday night that Metropolitan Manila and four nearby provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, would be placed under a so-called “general community quarantine,” which allows essential businesses and tourist destinations to expand operations, in the last half of the month. But he said religious fiestas in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation would remain prohibited.
“Forgo to congregate, to crowd and to hold,” Duterte said, warning village officials he would hold them responsible if quarantine restrictions were breached. “You go out, you just go hunting for the virus to enter your body and pass it on and that is a problem.”
Confirmed COVID-19 infections started to spike in March to some of the worst levels in Asia, surging beyond 10,000 daily and prompting Duterte to impose a lockdown in the capital and nearby regions in April. The Philippines has reported more than 1,120,000 infections with 18,821 deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia.