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Metro Manila lockdown may be eased in June

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE GOVERNMENT would probably ease the general lockdown in Manila, the capital and nearby cities and provinces next month as coronavirus infections continue to fall, according to the presidential palace.

“There’s a likelihood that the quarantine classifications might be relaxed on the basis of formula but subject to the recommendation of Metro Manila that any further reopening should be gradual,” presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr., told a televised news briefing on Thursday.

He said relaxing the quarantine in Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan would depend on  the hospital use rate, two-week and daily attack rates.

Mr. Roque said the infection rate in the capital region had fallen to 10.6% from a peak of 34% between April 4 and 17, while the two-week attack rate had gone down by 47% from 5%.

He said only 43% of the country’s healthcare facilities had been used.

“However, there is also the fact that the implementers have to be heard,” Mr. Roque said, referring to the capital region’s mayors.

The mayors have agreed to gradually reopen the economy as the situation improves, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin de Castro Abalos, Jr. told the same briefing.

“Let’s not be rash about it,” he said about easing the lockdown.

Metro Manila, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, accounts for about 40% of the country’s economic output.  

Mr. Abalos said the mayors would meet with the country’s anti-pandemic task force this week to discuss their proposals.

Mr. Roque said President Rodrigo R. Duterte might announce the new quarantine classifications for next month by the end of the month.

The OCTA Research Group on Wednesday said coronavirus infections in Metro Manila had fallen by 80% since a fresh surge that started in March.

The daily infection average in Metro Manila in the past seven days stood at 1,099, lower than 5,550 during the peak in late March to April.

OCTA said the capital region had a virus reproduction rate of 0.53, lower than more than two at the peak in July and August last year. A reproduction rate of 1 means an infected person can infect one more.

The group recommended that the general lockdown be retained in June because cases were still significant.

Also on Thursday, Health Director Althea de Guzman said coronavirus infections in the Visayas and Mindanao have been rising. Infections were increasing in Western Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao, she told a separate news briefing. 

“This is higher than the increase we saw and relayed last week,” she said.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 6,483 coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total number to 1.2 million.

The death toll rose by 210 to 20,379, while recoveries increased by 4,335 to 1,131,942, it said in a bulletin.

There were 48,109 active cases, 1.6% of which are critical, 92.7% were mild, 2.2% did not show symptoms, 2.1% were severe and 1.47% were moderate. 

The agency said 25 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 22 of which were reclassified as recoveries. It added that 139 recoveries had been reclassified as deaths. Six laboratories failed to submit data on Jan. 28.

The total number of Filipinos who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has crossed the 1-million mark, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Thursday.

In its latest vaccine statistics, the agency said the total number of those already fully vaccinated against the virus as of May 25 has reached 1,029,261.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday night threatened to send village captains to jail for allowing mass gatherings where people got infected with the coronavirus.

“You will be the first to be put in jail, the barangay captain, for having committed the crime of dereliction of duty under the Revised Penal Code,” he said in a televised speech in mixed English and Filipino.

Mr. Duterte issued the warning after more than 50 people got infected with the coronavirus at a pool party in Quezon City.

He ordered police to arrest the village captain first  if a so-called super spreader event happens again.

“I am ordering the police to arrest the barangay captain and bring him to the station, investigate him for dereliction of duty, having failed to enforce the law,” the President said.

Mr. Duterte said police can hit people who resist arrest.

Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año said his agency would release a memo informing village captains of additional responsibilities in enforcing health protocols.

Mr. Año said the order would mandate them to form their own “coronavirus operation centers” that will conduct health patrols on weekends and during public holidays.

The order would also ban alcoholic beverages, cockfights, parades, processions and other public events, he said.

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