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Return to strict lockdown may ravage economy

return to strict lockdown may ravage economy - Return to strict lockdown may ravage economy

By Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporters
and Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

PHILIPPINE economic output would probably get pulled down further by the return of Metro Manila and nearby provinces to a strict lockdown amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections, according to the presidential palace.

“I’m lying if I say the next two weeks of strict lockdown won’t negatively affect our gross domestic product,” Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque said at an online briefing in Filipino on Tuesday.

The economic contraction in the second quarter had worsened from the 0.2 shrinkage in the three months through March, Mr. Roque said, citing official data that the government will report on Thursday.

The capital and nearby cities and Calabarzon region — made up of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provinces — account for more than two-thirds of the economy, he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte put back Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan under a modified enhanced community quarantine to stop the rise in COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases.

The Department of Health reported a record daily increase of 6,352 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 112,593.

The death toll rose to 2,115 after 11 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 240 to 66,049, it said in a bulletin.

There were 44,429 active cases, 91% of which were mild, 7.5% did not show symptoms, and less than 1% each were severe and critical, the agency said.

Of the new cases 3,139 were from Metro Manila, 592 were from Laguna, 550 were from Cavite, 277 were from Rizal and 261 were from Cebu.

Of the new deaths, five came from Central Visayas, two each from the Zamboanga Peninsula and Davao region, and one each from Metro Manila and Calabarzon.

More than 1.5 million people have been tested for the virus, DoH said.

The strict lockdown began on Aug. 4 and will last until Aug. 18 after exhausted health workers warned that the country was losing the battle against the coronavirus.

The rest of the country is still under a modified general community quarantine except for Batangas, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, Minglanilla, Consolacion and Zamboanga City, which were placed under a general lockdown.

“We can’t deny that there was a steep fall in economic output in the second quarter because we shut down our economy,” Mr. Roque said.

The Philippines, which had been one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies before the pandemic, is on the edge of a recession after economic growth shrank by 0.2% in the first quarter, the first contraction in more than two decades.

Economists expect the contraction to have worsened last quarter as an extended lockdown in Manila, the capital and nearby cities took a heavier toll on local consumption.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the main island of Luzon in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.

He extended the lockdown — one of the strictest and longest in the world — for the island twice and thrice for the capital region. The lockdown in Metro Manila has since been eased, with more businesses allowed to reopen with a skeletal workforce. Mass gatherings remained banned.

Meanwhile, airlines will continue to operate international flights from Manila and local flights between destinations other than Manila during the two-week strict quarantine period as they try to stay afloat amid the pandemic.

Cebu Pacific will continue to operate flights from Manila to Dubai, Seoul and Singapore, it said in a statement. It will also push through with its flights from Osaka and Tokyo to Manila during the period.

The low-cost carrier will also continue to operate Clark-Cebu and Davao-Cebu flights, it said.

Cebu Pacific said it would mount cargo flights and work with the government to help stranded passengers.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines said all its existing domestic flights between cities other than Manila had not been affected by the strict community quarantine in the capital.

PAL’s international flights to and from Manila will continue to operate, it said.

PAL has been operating regular weekly passenger flights to the United States, Japan, Canada, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Southeast Asia, greater China and more than 15 domestic destinations along with occasional flights to Australia since it resumed operations in June.

PAL and other local airlines had planned to add more domestic and international flights by the start of August.

The flag carrier had operated 640 local and international cargo flights carrying crucial medical and food supplies from March to July.

Meanwhile, low-cost airline Philippines AirAsia, Inc. said it would continue to operate Clark-Davao and Cebu-Davao flights. It will also offer flights from Manila to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

The airline industry was among the hardest hit during the pandemic as countries restricted travel to contain the virus that has sickened 18.5 million and killed almost 700,000 people worldwide.

In April, the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines said local airlines had lost P7 billion a month during the lockdown, apart from P4 billion in losses due to travel refunds.

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