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Philippines

Philippine health chief voices fears as Manila curfew ends

Health secretary, Catholic groups warn of a spike in Covid cases ahead of holidays if protocols are not observed

Philippine health chief voices fears as Manila curfew ends

People wearing face masks and shields to protect themselves against Covid-19 cross a street in Manila. (Photo: AFP)

The Philippines’ health chief has warned of a possible spike in Covid-19 cases following the lifting of a 19-month curfew in Manila a month before the Christmas season.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said there could be a steep rise in infections if people’s movements are not be restricted as Christmas draws near.

“I remind everyone to follow health protocols. If not, we may experience a surge like what happened in the UK and other countries,” Duque said on Nov. 4.

In October, the United Kingdom experienced a surge of infections, recording almost 50,000 new Covid cases a day and giving it one of the worst infection rates on the planet.

Duque said a downtrend of Covid infections in the Philippines was no reason for people to violate social distancing and other protocols.

On Nov. 4, the Philippines recorded its lowest single daily infection tally with 1,766 cases, the second consecutive day where fewer than 2,000 cases had been recorded. The figures brought the total number of infections to just over 2,795,600.

Despite the lifting of the curfew, two Catholic youth groups have raised concerns over whether people will abide by Covid rules

Duque stressed the need to wear face masks and face shields in public to avoid infection. However, he warned the holidays could be the contributing factor to a Covid spike if people ignored protocols.

“We are in for a good December and good holidays. But even as we go to Alert Level 2, we should be mindful of public health standards like wearing face masks and avoiding large gatherings at this time,” Duque added.

Under Alert Level 2, businesses such as cinemas, theaters, theme parks, swimming pools, libraries, museums and tourist attractions will be allowed to reopen for the first time in 2021.

The government has also allowed children, who were previously banned from leaving their homes, to go to public places in the capital.

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Despite the lifting of the curfew, two Catholic youth groups have raised concerns over whether people will abide by Covid rules.

The Catholic Youth for Jesus movement and the Akap Youth Foundation warned the government to be mindful of people’s health before considering the economic benefits of easing restrictions.

“Business development is good. We need it at present to cushion the effect of the pandemic in our economy. But we must ease restrictions slowly, carefully, as the virus remains present and is still fatal to those who do not take safety precautions,” the group said in a Facebook post.

The Akay Youth Foundation likewise criticized the “sudden” easing of restrictions, calling the move “imprudent.”

“Prudence dictates applying measures to help the economy. But removing the curfew is not a good one because many young people will flock to bars and restaurants, especially during the holidays. An extended curfew would have been more prudent,” Akap member Alex Anonat said.

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