By Genshen L. Espedido, Vann Marlo M. Villegas and, Charmaine A. Tadalan

METRO MANILA’s 17 mayors may seek another two-week extension of a Luzon-wide lockdown until May 30 to contain a novel coronavirus pandemic, Parañaque Mayor Edwin L. Olivarez said on Friday,

Mr. Olivarez, who heads the Metro Manila Council, said most mayors favor an extension of the lockdown that will end at midnight of May 16.

“City mayors I’ve spoken with are in favor of extending it for 15 more days,” he told DZBB radio in Filipino.

Mr. Olivarez said all suspected and probable cases of the coronavirus including frontliners should be tested first before lifting the so-called enhanced community quarantine in the capital and nearby cities.

The mayors will come up with a resolution on Saturday that it would enforse to an inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet members, he said.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 120 new coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total to 10,463.

The death toll rose to 696 after 11 more patients died, it said in a bulletin. One hundred sixteen more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 1,734, it added.

Of the 120 new cases, 84 were from Metro Manila, 28 from Central Visayas and eight from the other regions, the agency said.

DoH said 1,934 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, 449 of whom have recovered and 34 died.

It said 136,169 people have been tested — 13,655 were positive while 122,245 tested negative.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said the positive cases were greater than the confirmed cases because these still have to be validated.

DoH expects confirmed cases to rise with increased testing capacity, she said at a news briefing.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down Luzon island on March 17, spending work, classes and public transportation to contain the outbreak. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.

The lockdown in Metro Manila and key regions was extended until May 15.

Meanwhile, 250 Filipino workers from overseas were tested for COVID-19 at the opening of the first mega swab center in Metro Manila, National Task Force deputy chief implementer Vivencio B. Dizon said at a separate briefing on Friday.

The agency on Thursday started operating the swabbing center at the Palacio de Manila. There are three other swabbing centers at the Enderun Tent in Taguig City, Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City and Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.

The swabbing centers will send about 5,000 samples to the Philippine Red Cros laboratory for analysis, Mr. Dizon said.

Also on Friday, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said the Senate education committee which he heads would probe the impact of the health crisis on the education sector.

The lawmaker filed a resolution seeking to draft a recovery plan for the education system during crises.

“We need to strengthen the ability of our schools to continue providing quality education during crises at disasters,” he said in a statement in Filipino.

The outbreak has affected more than 28 million students from the primary to tertiary levels.