Philippines extends curbs in capital as Covid-19 cases soar

The country is battling its biggest surge in Covid-19 cases, driven by the more infectious Omicron variant. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (BLOOMBERG, XINHUA) - The Philippines will keep movement restrictions in its capital from Jan 16 to 31 as daily Covid-19 infections and the percentage of positive tests hit record highs.

The country is battling its biggest surge in Covid-19 cases, driven by the more infectious Omicron variant, disrupting business operations and government services.

Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of economic output, will remain under Alert Level 3, acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said on Friday (Jan 14).

Outdoor restaurants can operate at half capacity, while cinemas, gyms and other indoor businesses are limited to 30 per cent capacity.

The post-holiday spike in infections has led to tighter limits on businesses in the capital, disrupted airlines and banks, and shortened stock trading.

Hospital beds in the capital are again filling up, with the unvaccinated accounting for the most severe and critical cases.

The Philippines reported 34,021 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the highest one-day tally since the pandemic began in January 2020, pushing the number of confirmed cases to 3,092,409.

The Department of Health (DOH) said that the number of active cases or patients still fighting the disease soared to 237,387 as the positivity rate rose to 47.9 per cent.

The DOH said that 82 more people died from Covid-19 complications, bringing the country's death toll to 52,736, with seven laboratories failing to submit data.

The deaths include those who died in the previous months.

Infections surged to record levels due to high mobility, poor compliance with health protocols and the fast-spreading Omicron and Delta variants.

Hospitals in Metro Manila, the region with the most active and new cases, are strained with the influx of Covid-19 patients and staffing shortages after many healthcare workers contracted the virus and needed isolation.

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said the government will deploy military and police medical personnel to address the staffing shortage.

Mr Vega said the Covid-19 situation in Metro Manila is "still very manageable" compared to when the Delta-fuelled surge hit the country in September last year.

"The surge this January is different. Unlike in September, this time the trajectory of the hospitalisation and intensive care utilisation did not increase along with the number of cases," Mr Vega said.

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