MANILA (2ND UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte extended Friday the Philippines' lockdown to May 15 and changed the areas covered by movement restrictions that shuttered businesses for weeks.
The so-called enhanced community quarantine will remain in Metro Manila, the Southern Tagalog (Calabarzon) and Central Luzon regions, Mindoro island, and the provinces of Pangasinan, Benguet, Catanduanes, and Albay.
The provinces of Benguet, Pangasinan, Tarlac, and Zambales meanwhile will be subject to a recheck by April 30.
The lockdown will also be extended until May 15 in "high risk" areas in Visayas and Mindanao, subject to rechecking. These are Antique, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, and Cebu in the Visayas, and Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, and Davao City in Mindanao.
"We are all at risk but do not increase the odds or chances of getting it (COVID-19)," Duterte said in a televised address, wearing a face mask.
"We're just waiting for the right time. Tiisin lang muna natin ako nakikiusap sa inyo para lang sa bayan because we are trying to limit the contamination," he added.
(Please bear with us, for the country, because we are trying to limit the contaminaton.)
Other areas will be under general community quarantine starting May 1, which means limiting the "stay home" policy to those in the 0 to 20 age group, and the elderly or those 60 years old and above.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases recommended the extension to the President after experts warned that lifting restrictions too soon could spark a second wave of infections.
Since the lockdown started on March 17, over 50 million people in the Philippine island of Luzon have been forced to stay home to contain the spread of COVID-19. The May 15 lifting target is the second extension.
Malacañang earlier said the government considered the capability of health facilities to respond to the pandemic in deciding whether or not to end the Luzon-wide lockdown.
"Importanteng tingnan natin 'yung mga numero on a geographical basis. At ang tanong nga natin ay sapat ba ang kakayanan ng health sector sa lugar na 'yun na gamitin lahat ng magkakasakit kung ire-relax o ili-lift ang ECQ," Harry Roque said.
(It's important to look at the figures on a geographical basis. The question that we're asking is whether the health sector can adjust to whatever decision will be made on the enhanced community quarantine.)
As of Thursday, the Philippines had a cumulative 6,981 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 462 deaths and 722 recoveries.
Since emerging in Wuhan City in Hubei province, China, the novel coronavirus has infected some 2.6 million people worldwide and killed 185,000 others, according to a running tally from US-based John Hopkins University.
More details to follow.