The Philippines will keep the capital region that has the most coronavirus infections under a lockdown but it will allow some businesses to reopen in the area as it eases curbs in many parts of the country.
President Rodrigo Duterte will put Metro Manila, Laguna province south of the capital and Cebu City in the Visayas under a modified enhanced community quarantine from May 16 to May 31 where manufacturing plants and public transport can restart under a limited capacity, his spokesman Harry Roque said at a televised briefing.
The stay-at-home orders imposed on the central and southern parts of the Luzon island, and several provinces in Visayas and in Mindanao would be lifted after May 15, Roque said.
The Philippines has to ease restrictions as the nation can’t afford to be on a quarantine for a long period, said Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer of measures to stem the outbreak. “It has to balance between health and economy,” Galvez said.
The capital region makes up about 36% of the country’s economy. Given its density, it also has the concentration of COVID-19 infections, accounting for 64% of the country’s 11,086 cases as of May 11, and 72% of the 726 fatalities.
The Philippine Stock Exchange Index pared an earlier loss of as much as 0.6% to close Tuesday lower by 0.3%. The peso was down 0.1% at the noon break.
Gross domestic product fell 0.2% in the first quarter compared to a year ago, its first contraction since 1998 amid the lockdown that shut businesses and sapped consumption in the Philippines’ key economic engine
The government will revive its infrastructure push as part of an economic recovery program to stimulate consumption, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said at the briefing. More than 2 million employees have been displaced by the virus outbreak, the labor department said.
A massive hiring of contact tracers can be done to employ some displaced workers, Dominguez added. Some 158,000 individuals have been tested for the virus in the Philippines, which has a population of about 110 million.