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Hotspots face strict lockdown as COVID-19 cases top 57,000

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A soldier guards an empty street following the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Manila, April 24. -- REUTERS

By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

SOME AREAS of the country might revert to a stricter lockdown this week after coronavirus infections topped 57,000 on Monday, while Manila and nearby cities would probably remain under a general lockdown, the government said on Monday.

Metro Manila mayors wanted the capital region to be kept under a general community quarantine, Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., chief enforcer of anti-COVID-19 measures, said at an online news briefing.

“We met with Metro Manila mayors twice and they are really recommending that we maintain the quarantine,” he said in Filipino.

Mr. Galvez said the mayors’ “hybrid” recommendation sought to balance economic activities and stricter health protocols in the capital region. He added that an inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet officials would discuss the proposals at its next meeting.

President Rodrigo Duterte would announce his decision on the various lockdown levels nationwide on Wednesday, Mr. Galvez said.

He said the government would use a targeted approach to the lockdown and won’t use a sweeping strict quarantine for the entire metro to protect the economy.

Mr. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.

He extended the so-called enhanced community quarantine for the island twice and thrice for Metro Manila. The lockdown in the capital region has since been eased, with many businesses allowed to reopen with a skeletal workforce. Mass gatherings remained banned.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 836 new coronavirus infections on Monday afternoon, bringing the total to 57,006. The death toll rose to 1,599 after 65 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 4,325 to 20,371, it said in a bulletin.

Of the new cases, 749 were reported in the past three days, while 87 were reported late. The agency said 89 duplicates had been removed from the tally.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing on Monday afternoon 978,884 tests have been conducted on 908,779 people. She added that 71,103 people have tested positive or an infection rate of 7.8%.

“This is higher than the World Health Organization benchmark of less than 5%,” she said. It takes 8 days for infections to double, she added.

The agency failed to report new cases on Sunday due to “significant volume of data,” announcing new numbers instead on Monday morning.

Ms. Vergeire told a separate morning briefing “robust surveillance has led to an increased number of reconciled data on recoveries.” She also traced the increase to better coordination with local governments.

“We expect more COVID-19 recoveries that we can add to our official count,” she said.

Meanwhile, St. Luke’s Medical Center said its hospitals in Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City had reached the full capacity of allocated COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) intensive care unit beds.

“We request the public to consider bringing critically ill COVID-19 suspects to alternative hospitals so they will receive immediate and utmost care,” it said on its Facebook page.

Both hospitals would still admit non-coronavirus patients for treatment, including out-patient procedures, it said.

The Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center earlier said its ward for coronavirus patients had been running at full capacity.

The coronavirus has sickened 13.1 million and killed about 572,000 people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization. About 7.6 million people have gotten well, it said.





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