08/04/2020, 09.11
PHILIPPINES
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New COVID-19 emergency: Millions back under lockdown in Philippines

Doctors warn that a surge in new cases could push the healthcare system to collapse. Stay-at-home orders are now in place for two weeks in Manila and four surrounding provinces in Luzon. Duterte accuses doctors and health care workers of trying to foment revolution. Many people have found themselves stranded in the capital without transport to travel to their hometowns.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Tens of millions of people in the Philippines are back under lockdown, after doctors warned that a surge in new coronavirus cases could push the healthcare system to collapse.

Stay-at-home orders are now in place in Manila and four surrounding provinces on the island of Luzon for two weeks. The country only just emerged from one of the strictest lockdowns in June.

Recently, hospitals have been struggling to cope with a five-fold rise in confirmed infections, now surging past 100,000.

The lockdown means a return to stay-at-home orders except for going out to buy essential goods or exercising outdoors. Public transport has also been suspended and domestic flights are grounded, while restaurants are restricted to takeaways.

The new lockdown came after 80 medical associations on Saturday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to toughen restrictions in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

On Sunday, the Philippines announced a record 5,032 new infections. In some areas hospitals are reported to have been forced to turn away patients.

Doctors hope the reinstated restrictions will now give medical workers more time to deal with the spike in cases.

During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte accused doctors and health care workers of trying to foment revolution, apparently reacting to a protest song from the musical Les Miserables which was recorded and shared online by Duterte’s detractors.

While announcing Metro Manila’s lockdown, Duterte addressed doctors, saying “next time, you can just ask for an audience,” he said. “Now, if you think that this can be solved by revolution, then by all means, we start it.”

One group of doctors wrote an open letter criticising the government’s performance and calling for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque and the former generals who are leading the country’s coronavirus task force.

With only 24 hours of the shutdown, which took effect on Tuesday, many people found themselves stranded in the capital without transport to travel to their hometowns.

"We've run out of money. We can't leave the airport because we don't have any relatives here," Ruel Damaso, a 36-year-old construction worker, told AFP. He was trying to return to the southern city of Zamboanga.

In other parts of Manila people were seen stockpiling food the day before restrictions began as they prepared to stay indoors for a second time.

The earlier shutdown from mid-March to May was one of the world's longest stay-at-home orders.

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