Bangkok Desk, Aug 6 (EFE).- Manila began its third Covid-19 lockdown on Friday for at least two weeks to stop the highly infectious Delta variant in the Philippine capital.
The authorities have asked the city’s 13 million inhabitants to stay home at all times, except to go to the hospital or for shopping, although some essential sectors will be allowed to operate while public transport will be operational with 50 percent capacity.
Restrictions have also been imposed on movement between provinces under the measure, which has also been imposed in areas surrounding the capital, including the province of Laguna, south of Manila, and the cities of Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro.
“It was a painful decision (…) but we have to do it to prevent a shortage of ICU beds and other hospital requirements. This would happen if the number of cases balloons because of the Delta variant,” government spokesperson Harry Roque said last week while announcing the lockdown.
The overcrowded capital city, which has been the epicenter of the country’s epidemic, has suffered one of the longest lockdowns in the world.
It was under strict confinement between March and August 2020, when some restrictions were eased, and again between March and April of this year, when over 15,000 new daily infections were recorded.
Health authorities have so far only recorded 216 cases of the Delta variant, but experts say that many cases remain undetected due to the country’s limited capacity to identify the genome of the virus.
The Philippines is the second-worst affected country in Southeast Asia with 1.62 million Covid-19 cases and 28,231 deaths, behind only Indonesia.
Although cases had fallen since the last wave in March and stabilized at around 6,000 a day, they began surging again in mid-July.
The country is lagging behind in its vaccination program, which aims to inoculate 70 million people before the end of the year. So far, only about 10 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated. EFE