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Philippines to reimpose stricter coronavirus lockdown in capital as cases spike

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MANILA (Reuters) — The Philippines will reimpose a stricter coronavirus lockdown in and around the capital for two weeks from Tuesday, authorities said on Sunday, as the country struggles to contain infections that have jumped to more than 100,000 cases.

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved placing Metro Manila and nearby provinces such as Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan under so-called “Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine” or MECQ until Aug. 18, his spokesman Harry Roque told reporters.

Some businesses and public transport are expected to be closed in the capital, which is currently under the less restrictive General Community Quarantine classification.

Work and quarantine passes will also be required, as authorities seek to restrict movements.

Duterte’s move came after 80 local groups representing 80,000 doctors and a million nurses called for tighter controls, saying the country was losing the fight against the coronavirus.

“I have heard you. Don’t lose hope. We are aware that you are tired,” Duterte said late on Sunday, addressing the medical frontliners during a televised speech after meeting cabinet members and his coronavirus task force.

The Philippines recorded 5,032 additional infections on Sunday, the country’s largest single-day increase, taking its confirmed coronavirus cases to 103,185. The death toll jumped by 20 to 2,059.

This is the second highest number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia.

Duterte also approved the hiring of 10,000 medical professionals to beef up the current workforce and additional benefits for healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients, Roque said.

In mid-March, Duterte imposed one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns in the capital and other provinces to curb the coronavirus spread.

He began easing restrictions in June in an effort to revive the domestic economy, which is now facing its biggest contraction in more than three decades.

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