Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to ease a mild lockdown in the capital and four outlying provinces to further reopen the country’s battered economy despite having the most reported coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia.
Most businesses, including shopping malls and dine-in restaurants, and Roman Catholic church services will be allowed to partially resume on Wednesday with restrictions, including masks and social distancing.
Duterte shifted metropolitan Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, a region of about 25 million people, back to a mild lockdown two weeks ago after leading groups of doctors warned hospitals were being overwhelmed again by COVID-19 patients and pleaded for a “time out.” They also asked the government to recalibrate its response to the pandemic.
The Philippines has reported more than 164,000 virus cases, including 2,681 deaths.
Duterte’s administration has been under intense pressure to revive the economy, which fell into a recession in the second quarter as millions of people lost their jobs.
Duterte, 75, used his televised appearance to deny rumors that he has fallen ill and was flown out of the country over the weekend for treatment. “Stop this nonsense about me going to Singapore,” he said.