Philippines reports three more deaths, closes off capital to fight coronavirus - GulfToday

Philippines reports three more deaths, closes off capital to fight coronavirus


A Philippine policeman inspects identification of jeepney passengers at a checkpoint bordering nearby Cavite province and suburban Las Pinas in Manila on Sunday. AFP

The Philippines recorded three additional coronavirus deaths and 29 new cases, bringing the domestic tally of infections to 140, as authorities placed the entire capital Manila under "community quarantine" for about a month beginning on Sunday.

Police began closing off access to the Philippines' sprawling and densely populated capital Manila on Sunday, imposing a quarantine that officials hope will curb the nation's rising number of coronavirus cases.

ManilaBusMaskA Philippine policeman inspects a passenger jeepney at a checkpoint bordering nearby Cavite province and suburban Las Pinas in Manila. AFP

Officers in military fatigues and armed with rifles blocked off main roads into the city of some 12 million as domestic flights to and from Manila were halted early on Sunday for a month-long isolation of the capital.

The latest deaths include an 86-year-old American male with travel history from the United States and South Korea, the Department of Health said in an advisory.

The other two are Filipinos. In total, 11 people have died from the virus in the country, according to the health department.


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Domestic land, sea and air travel to and from Metro Manila is now restricted, while stringent measures to contain or prevent local transmission have been imposed in other parts of the Southeast Asian country.

Major shopping malls in Metro Manila, home to at least 12 million people, have heeded the authorities' call for a temporary partial closure to discourage people from leaving their homes, while a nighttime curfew will begin on Monday.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, bookstores and hardware stores will be kept open, while restaurants may also operate but only for home deliveries, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

ManilaChurchA security guard sits inside an empty Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Manila on Sunday. AFP

Mass gatherings and school at all levels have also been called off, but delays and exceptions have led public health experts to question how effective President Rodrigo Duterte's measures will be.

Striking steps were also being taken elsewhere in the county, with one church in the central Philippines deciding to hold its Sunday service with worshippers separated by yellow barricade tape.

The tape crisscrossed the pews so that no two worshippers could sit next to each other.

Though the Philippines has detected a fraction of the infections seen in hot spots such as China and Italy, its confirmed cases nearly doubled in recent days to 111, with eight deaths.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience, but we have orders to follow," said police corporal Meljayric Sajonia at a checkpoint on the southern edge of the capital.

The sealing of the city will not be total, as people going to work will be allowed to enter through checkpoints. Buses and trains will continue to operate inside Manila.

'Better we stop the virus'

Passengers who showed work ID cards were allowed through, with temperature checks at some entry points.

"I have no problem with the checkpoints," said Michael Sausa, a hotel supervisor. "It's better that we prevent the spread of the virus."

Ahead of Sunday's closure, people packed grocery stores to stock up, and tens of thousands also boarded buses leaving the capital while it was still permitted.

Buses continued to roll into Manila's main transit hubs on Sunday, but many had one vacant seat between passengers as a precaution against the virus.

Manila's local leaders moved on Saturday to impose an 8:00pm to 5:00am curfew, with exceptions for travel to work, buy essentials or seek medical assistance.

However, Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said the president would have to approve a curfew covering the entire city and has not yet done so.

Mayors of Manila's 17 local government areas are also pushing for shopping malls, the centres of life in the country, to be temporarily shut.

They remained open on Sunday but with temperature checks and free hand sanitiser at entrances.

Agence France-Presse / Reuters

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