Manila, Sep 1 (efe-epa).- The Philippine capital region of Metro Manila, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, began on Tuesday a month-long extended lockdown as the nationwide Covid-19 cases reached nearly 230,000.
The new order by President Rodrigo Duterte extending six months of uninterrupted confinement will make the lockdown in Manila the longest in the world since the coronavirus pandemic began.
However, the less restrictive measures allowed fitness gyms, barbershops, and internet cafes to reopen partly and with restricted capacities from Tuesday.
Nocturnal curfew hours have also been shortened in most of the cities in the capital region under the new guidelines.
The overall tally of Covid-19 infections has reached 220,819, of which 59,700 are still active. Some 50 percent of the country’s all infections have been reported from Manila.
The disease has claimed 3,558 lives, the highest fatality in Southeast Asia, where almost all neighboring countries, except Indonesia, have managed to contain the pandemic.
The capital, with almost 14 million inhabitants, was closed on Mar. 15 and the lockdown will now remain in force at least until Sep. 31, a total of six and a half months. People, except in emergency cases, are not allowed to move outside of Manila.
The quarantine in Manila will be the longest in the world, followed by the one in Buenos Aires, which will be complete six months on Sep. 20.
Duterte on Monday night announced that Metro Manila and a nearby province of Bulacan would continue to remain under general community quarantine.
The president called for a collective resolve to stay healthy while at the same time ensuring the safety of others, “as the primary key in winning the war against the pandemic.”
“The key to fight Covid-19 is to keep safe, wearing of face mask, washing of hands, and physical distancing,” Duterte said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said all people should remain “homeliners” to stop the spread of the virus.
“It is still prohibited to go outside your home unless for indispensable needs or going to work for industries allowed to operate,” Roque said.
Roque also said that mass gatherings with 50 percent capacity are allowed like movie houses, concerts, religious gatherings, and sporting events.
In Metro Manila, local government executives requested the anti-coronavirus task force to allow only up to 10 people in religious gatherings to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the Philippine economy, which entered recession for the first time in 30 years and has left almost half of the workforce unemployed in a country, where 16 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Tourism, a growing sector in the country that reached 13 percent of its GDP last year, has taken a bad hit like in other parts of the world.
The pandemic has also paralyzed the construction and services sectors, the engines of the Philippine economy. EFE