Philippine capital plans curfew as coronavirus deaths, infection tally spike

Workers disinfect the surroundings of the monument of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal after it was closed to the public, at the Luneta Park in Manila, on March 14, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (REUTERS) - Manila announced nighttime curfews on Saturday (March 14) and urged shopping malls to close for one month, in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, as the Philippines reported its eighth death and the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases.

The Philippines' health department on Saturday confirmed three new fatalities, including a patient in southern Philippines, bringing the total number of deaths to eight.

It also reported 34 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 98.

Details of the new cases are being validated and authorities are verifying reports of more infections, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference.

President Rodrigo Duterte has raised the country's health emergency status to the highest level and issued quarantine measures in the capital, home to at least 12 million people.

He also issued land and air travel restrictions to and from the capital on Thursday that will take effect on March 15, and extended school closures to April 12.

The measures in the Philippine capital, if implemented fully, would be among the strictest in Asia, and come as European countries and the United States battle to contain a pandemic that has killed more than 5,000 worldwide.

"To limit the spread of the virus, we need to limit the movement of people. We are slowing down the movement of people in Metro Manila," Mr Jose Arturo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, told a news conference.

Some of the capital's residents flocked to bus stations and airports ahead of the travel ban that will start Sunday.

The nighttime curfew will take effect on March 15 to April 14, but some employees will be exempt, Mr Garcia said.

He said people who violated the curfew would be turned back, but would not be reprimanded or arrested.

Mayors will issue local ordinances for the temporary closure of malls and establishments, exempting shops offering essential services like groceries, banks and pharmacies.

The capital is home to sprawling shopping malls, some of which are among the largest in the world.

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