Philippine cops deploy road blocks to enforce lockdown

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The country posts South-east Asia's biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases, with 6,352 infections

MANILA: Philippine police deployed road blocks yesterday to enforce a tough new lockdown on about 28 million people in the capital Manila and nearby provinces as the country reported the region's biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases.

The area, which accounts for most economic activity in the country and a quarter of the population, has gone back into lockdown for two weeks after restrictions were relaxed in June.

The easing of restrictions, to revive the economy, led to infections soaring more than six-fold to 112,593 and deaths more than doubling to roughly 2,100, piling pressure on a beleaguered healthcare sector.

The Health Ministry yesterday reported 6,352 new cases, marking the biggest daily jump in infections in South-east Asia and after posting a record rise in five of the past six days.

President Rodrigo Duterte late on Sunday announced the new lockdown, marking a return to the strict quarantine measures in force from mid-March to May.

But the presidential palace yesterday warned the new restrictions could not be prolonged.

"The economy can no longer bear a longer lockdown," Mr Harry Roque, Mr Duterte's spokesman, told a news briefing. "Our message to the people is to take care of your health so you can still make a living."


Elsewhere in the region, Indonesian President Joko Widodo again expressed disappointment in his Cabinet over poor utilisation of funds allocated for the country's Covid-19 response.

"Only around 141 trillion rupiah (S$13.2 billion) has been spent, or 20 per cent from the provided budget. That is a very small amount," Mr Joko said prior to a limited Cabinet meeting on Monday.

"This shows that ministries and government institutions still do not have a sense of urgency. Officials are still fixated on their day-to-day duties."

Mr Joko also said the Cabinet should be concerned about the high Covid-19 fatality rate.

"The country's fatality rate is 4.7 per cent, or 0.8 (percentage points) higher than the global fatality rate. This is something we should all work on," he said.

Indonesia recorded 1,922 new coronavirus infections yesterday, bringing its total to 115,056. There were 86 additional deaths, taking the overall number to 5,388.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has said people returning to the country who refuse to sign a letter of undertaking to pay quarantine charges will be sent to public training institutes instead of hotels for their 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said this is because these facilities belong to the government, and these individuals can be placed there without having to pay a deposit up front.

"While being quarantined, they will be given 14 days to settle the charges of RM150 ($47) a day, failing which, authorities can slap them with a RM1,000 compound and court action," he said in a statement.

Mr Ismail Sabri said quarantine charges at hotels and public training institutes are the same.

Malaysia recorded just one new Covid-19 infection yesterday, bringing its total to 9,002 cases. The country's death toll remains at 125. - REUTERS, THE STAR, JAKARTA POST/ANN