City workers in protective suits disinfect a street against Covid-19 in Manila in this file photo. (Photo: AFP)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended lockdowns in areas of the country worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak to May 15, a government spokesman has announced.
The extension is the second imposed by the Philippine government after it first imposed a 30-day lockdown last month which was due to expire on April 12. It was then extended to April 30.
The new extension means parts of the main island Luzon remain in lockdown, as do several provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao regions of the archipelago.
Duterte accepted the recommendation of the Inter-Action Task Force Agency against Covid-19 to extend restrictions, known as enhanced community quarantines.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on April 24 that certain “regions and provinces” will remain locked down due to a continuing rise in Covid-19 cases. He claimed the extension will reduce virus transmissions in these areas.
He ruled out a "total lockdown" which would have confined people to their homes. People are currently allowed to leave their homes to buy essentials.
The extension covers Metro Manila and a number of northern and southern Luzon provinces. Quarantines in Cebu in the Visayas region and Davao province in Mindanao are also extended.
Duterte said he would borrow and sell government assets if present government funds proved insufficient in helping people suffering as a result of the lockdowns.
“Today our cash is sufficient. But there is no telling how long Covid will remain in our lives. If the funds prove insufficient, they [the Finance Department] will have to borrow. If that is not enough, we might sell assets,” Duterte said on national television on April 24.
Although restrictions will be lifted in some areas on April 30, all schools, leisure, amusement, gaming and tourism activities, as well as all major gatherings including religious conferences, remain suspended, according to a government directive.
The public may only leave their homes to buy basic necessities, it said.
Duterte has also called on laid-off workers in Manila to return to the provinces once restrictions in the capital are lifted and participate in a government livelihood program to cushion the effect of the lockdowns on the labor sector.
Meanwhile, Caritas in Kalookan Diocese is calling on people to grow their own food by promoting small-scale urban gardening. The local social arm of the church is distributing seeds to parishioners as part of its campaign.
“Let us produce fruit! And let us teach our people to produce food also,” Bishop Ambo David of Kalookan said in a Facebook post.
As of April 23, the Philippines had recorded 6,981 Covid-19 cases with 462 deaths, according to government figures.