Manila, March 29, 2021: More than 24 million people in the Philippines’ economic hub entered a lockdown starting this week.
People have been ordered to stay home unless they are essential workers as Metro Manila and four neighbouring provinces struggle to curb a surge that has strained hospitals.
Only hours into the latest lockdown imposed on the region — which accounts for around half of the country’s economic activity, epidemiology chief Alethea de Guzman warned it could be prolonged depending on the outcome.
More contagious mutant variant of the virus have been blamed for the record spike that has taken the country’s case tally to more than 720,000. Traffic was backed up for hundreds of metres at checkpoints on major avenues in the capital Manila as police tried to ensure only essential workers were travelling.
The tighter restrictions affect a fifth of the country’s population. Church services and other mass gatherings are banned, a 6:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew is in force and public transport has been reduced.
Supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential businesses are allowed to operate, and outdoor exercise is permitted.
The last months-long lockdown crippled the Philippine economy, cost millions of jobs and left many households hungry. Budget Secretary said assistance would be available for nearly 23 million people under lockdown.
A growing number of hospitals in the capital are reporting that their Covid-19 beds are full. Several health workers said in recent days that a shortage of beds and nurses was forcing some facilities to turn away patients. According to one doctor, they now know how to treat patients but bed capacity is the problem.
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