MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to ease a mild lockdown in the capital and four outlying provinces to further reopen the country’s battered economy in a high-risk gamble despite having the highest number of coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia.
Duterte’s decision, which he announced late Monday, would allow most businesses, including shopping malls and dine-in restaurants, and Catholic church services to partially resume on Wednesday with restrictions, including the wearing of face masks and keeping people safely apart.
Duterte shifted metropolitan Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, a region of about 25 million people, back to a mild lockdown two weeks ago after leading groups of doctors warned hospitals were being overwhelmed again by COVID-19 patients and pleaded for a “time out.” They also asked the government to recalibrate its response to the pandemic.
The Philippines has reported more than 164,000 of confirmed cases, including 2,681 deaths.
Duterte’s administration has been under intense pressure to revive the economy after it fell into a recession in the second quarter and millions lost their jobs.