Passenger planes from carrier AirAsia parked on the tarmac of Manila's international airport. AFP
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended until May 15 a lockdown in the capital Manila, his spokesman said on Friday, stretching to eight weeks one of the world's strictest community quarantines to curb coronavirus infections.
In an expletives-laden statement he issued in a taped and televised message aired nationwide, Duterte also warned he would impose martial law if the communist rebels failed to stop their attacks on soldiers and policemen protecting government personnel in giving cash and other assistance like food to poor families especially in remote areas throughout the country.
Also during the day, the Philippines' major airlines said their domestic and international flights will remain suspended until mid-May following the extension of coronavirus lockdown measures in the capital and affected cities and provinces.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and the Philippine unit of Malaysia's Airasia Group Bhd said passenger flights, which were halted in March, will remain suspended. Cargo and special recovery flights will continue, the airlines told Reuters.
Passenger planes from carrier Cebu Pacific parked on the tarmac of Manila's international airport. AFP
Meanwhile, Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, read the Duterte order extending the total lockdown on several areas in Luzon, which aside from Metro Manila, also included provinces in Central Luzon as well as Calabarzon where there are high cases of the dreaded disease.
Television broadcast images on Friday of a crisis panel meeting where Duterte had made the decision late the previous day. He even offered a reward of 50 million pesos ($986,000) to any Filipino who could create a vaccine.
"We are all at risk, but do not increase the odds or chances of getting it," he said, warning against complacency.
Manila, a heavily congested city of at least 13 million people and millions more informal settlers, accounts for more than two-thirds of the country's 6,981 infections and 462 deaths.
After China and Italy, but just a few days before Spain, the Philippines became the third country to order tight lockdown and home quarantine, even though it had only a fraction of the infections and deaths of nations that took similar measures.
Passenger planes from carrier Philippine Airlines parked on the tarmac of Manila's international airport. AFP
The Philippines introduced curbs on immigration, travel, commerce, gatherings on March 12, five days after the first case of domestic transmission, and expanded on March 16. It is closed to all except repatriated Filipinos.
The approach aims to keep overstretched health services from being overwhelmed and create a window to ramp up testing, which started slowly to gain ground in recent weeks.
But with just 72,000 tests, the government last week estimated it had managed to track only a quarter of projected infections. The health ministry has said it was too early to say if the infection curve had been flattened.
This statement was made in a circular issued by the Ministry of Education and the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, NCEMA, as a preventive and precautionary measure to ensure the safety of students and in line with the national efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19.
"I have to go back to work," said Steven John Cabusao, who walked several kilometres on his first day of work after being confined to his home for 11 weeks.
Taimur Saleem Jhagra, the Health Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, where both victims died, told AFP the men had recently travelled internationally.
"It will be very premature and I think unrealistic to think that we're going to finish with this virus by the end of the year," Ryan told journalists. "But I think what we can finish with, if we're smart, is the hospitalisations, the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic."
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