Task force backs easing one of world’s toughest lockdowns

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MANILA — The Philippines’ coronavirus task force has recommended to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to ease one of the toughest and longest lockdowns in the world for residents in the capital Manila, who have endured nearly 11 weeks of restrictions on activity.

Manila’s lockdown will this weekend surpass the 76-day quarantine of Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first outbreak of the coronavirus was detected.

The recommendation came even as 539 new infections were announced, bringing the nationwide tally to 15,588, of which 921 have led to deaths. The numbers are expected to rise further, the health ministry said.

Health authorities have missed a target of testing 30,000 people a day, with nearly 290,000 conducted since January, equivalent to about 0.26% of the 107 million population.

Duterte will announce his decision in an address to the nation later on Thursday.


“This is really a compromise. The need to reopen the economy and the need to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said at a regular briefing.

Restrictions on commerce and movement dealt a blow to the Philippines’ consumption-driven economy, which is facing its biggest contraction in 34 years this year. The economy unexpectedly shrank 0.2% in the first quarter and is expected to fare worse in the second quarter.

Mobility data from Apple for people driving shows how sharply activity slowed in the Philippines and how low it has remained compared to countries which also imposed tough lockdowns such as Italy and India.

Under the more relaxed rules that will be in place from June 1 to 15, if approved, local officials can still place communities deemed as high risk under lockdown.

Under the recommendations, gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed, workplaces, shops and some public transportation will reopen and movement in and out of Manila will be permitted.

Schools, universities, tourist destinations, dine-in restaurants will stay closed, however, while stay-at-home orders will remain for the elderly and children. — Reuters