Philippines lets malls reopen further while Covid-19 deaths rise

Essential shops in malls and money exchanges are now allowed to operate at full capacity. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The Philippines has allowed malls and several businesses to reopen further even as the South-east Asian nation recorded more coronavirus deaths last month.

The task force against the virus outbreak has approved economic managers' recommendation to reopen more industries and public transport, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said at a briefing on Monday (Oct 5).

Essential shops in malls and money exchanges are among those now allowed to operate at full capacity, Mr Roque said.

Restaurants can now operate round-the-clock, while malls can stay open until 11pm. Salons and barbershops can also run at 75 per cent capacity. Current quarantine classifications are expected to be maintained, and will only be changed as last resort if Covid-19 cases are rising, Mr Roque said.

The economic contraction, projected to be as much as 6.6 per cent this year, might reverse the country's gains in poverty reduction, according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua.

He said poverty incidence might temporarily climb to 17.5 per cent although the government's goal of reducing it to 14 per cent by 2022 remains achievable. About 16.6 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2018, latest Asian Development Bank data show.

The Philippines is seeking a balance between curtailing the worst outbreak in South-east Asia and reviving an economy that plunged into recession in the second quarter. Covid-19 cases in the country have risen to nearly 325,000 as at Monday.

Coronavirus deaths rose by over 1,900 in September, the highest monthly increase since the start of the pandemic. New virus cases, meanwhile, decreased to more than 90,000 last month from 127,000 in August.

Improved contact tracing has been the critical factor in slowing the virus spread, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a separate virtual briefing on Monday.

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