THE MAYORS of Manila, the capital and nearby cities have agreed to suspend the operations of several nonessential businesses for two weeks amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections, according to the presidential palace.
Metro Manila chiefs voted to temporarily keep spas, fitness centers and internet cafes closed during a two-week general lockdown with more restrictions in the capital region and nearby provinces, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Tuesday.
The decision was in keeping with guidelines issued by the Trade department giving local governments the power to shut gyms, spas and internet cafes, he added.
Gyms and fitness centers were initially allowed to operate at as much as 75% capacity and 50% capacity, respectively inside the so-called National Capital Region Plus (NCR Plus) bubble where the restrictions are in place.
But Mr. Roque said local leaders have the authority to suspend the operations of these businesses depending on their situation.
Although last year’s memo by an inter-agency task force allowed local governments to determine operating capacity and guidelines, it still issued a circular on uniform implementation Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters in a Viber group message.
The memo would cover “gyms and fitness centers, internet cafes, spas and full body massage places,” he said.
In a Tuesday memo that adopted the latest pandemic rules, the agency advised businesses to continue enforcing alternative work arrangements to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“The DTI, through the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau and Regional or Provincial Offices, shall enhance its regular monitoring activities to confirm and ensure strict compliance with minimum public health and safety standards and protocols,” it said.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 5,867 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 677,653.
Tuesday’s tally was lower than the 8,019 new cases on Monday, the highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic last year.
The death toll rose by 20 to 12,992, while recoveries increased by 620 to 578,461, it said in a bulletin.
There were 86,200 active cases, 95.4% of which were mild, 2.3% did not show symptoms, 0.9% were critical, 0.9% were severe and 0.49% were moderate.
The agency said six duplicates had been removed from the tally, while eight recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Nine laboratories failed to submit data on Mar. 22.
About 9.1 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Mar. 16, according to DoH’s tracker website.
The coronavirus has sickened about 124.3 million and killed 2.7 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.
About 100.3 million people have recovered, it said.
Caloocan Bishop Virgilio S. David earlier slammed the government for banning church gatherings while allowing luxurious activities to operate in the greater Manila bubble.
He urged the faithful to defy quarantine guidelines that lack consultations and violate the “separation of church and state.”
Despite the ban on religious gatherings in the capital region and surrounding provinces, the archdiocese of Manila said it would continue to hold religious services at 10% capacity starting on Wednesday.
“We will not have any religious activity outside of our churches such as senakulo, pabasa, processions, motorcades, and Visita Iglesia,” Bishop Broderick Pabillo said in a pastoral letter. “But within our churches starting Mar. 24, we will have our religious worship within 10% of our maximum church capacity.”
“That would be contrary to the guidelines of the inter-agency task force,” Mr. Roque said. The palace had urged Mr. Pabillo not to encourage Catholics to disregard the rules, he said.
Mr. Roque said the state would not hesitate to use its police power to enforce regulations if the Catholic Church defied quarantine rules.
Also on Tuesday, the DoH said the government would set up more isolation centers and temporary treatment and monitoring facilities to house Filipinos with mild and asymptomatic coronavirus symptoms.
The centers would boost the capacity of hospitals in Manila and nearby cities to treat coronavirus patients, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo J. Vega told a televised news briefing. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Vann Marlo M. Villegas