Asia Today: Philippines placing southern city in lockdown
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — One southern Philippine province and its war-battered capital will be placed under a mild lockdown next month and the rest of the country will be under more relaxed restrictions to boost the battered economy of the country counting the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced the quarantine restrictions for October in televised remarks Monday night. Lanao del Sur province and its capital, Marawi city, will fall under a lockdown starting Thursday due to infection spikes in recent weeks.
Most of Marawi’s commercial and downtown areas were destroyed after hundreds of Islamic State group-aligned militants laid siege to the mosque-studded city in May 2017 and the military launched a massive offensive and airstrikes to quell the five-month uprising. Many residents remain displaced, now staying with relatives or in government-constructed housing units.
Duterte and officials did not provide more specifics on Marawi, but a mild lockdown would restrict most residents at home except for medical emergencies and buying food and other essential trips. Shopping malls and other vital businesses can operate partially but leisure and entertainment centers, along with fitness gyms and movie theaters should be closed.
Metropolitan Manila and five other cities will remain under general quarantine restrictions with more businesses and public transport allowed to partially operate on condition people wear face masks and shields and stay safely apart.
Classes in public schools are scheduled to resume online belatedly on Oct. 5 due to the pandemic.
The Philippines has confirmed more than 307,000 cases of coronavirus infection and 5,381 people have died from COVID-19 as of Monday.
In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:
— India has registered 70,589 new coronaviruses cases in the past 24 hours, maintaining a noticeable decline in daily infections for the last two weeks. The Health Ministry raised India’s total to more than 6.1 million on Tuesday. It also reported 776 fatalities in the last 24 hours, which pushed the death toll to 96,318. India is still registering the highest number of daily cases globally as it inches closer to the U.S. tally, which is highest in the world. Health experts have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the upcoming religious festival season and an election next month in eastern Bihar state, where about 72 million people will cast votes over three days.
— South Korea’s daily coronavirus increase was the lowest in about 50 days Tuesday as new infections trend lower. Many experts have warned, however, that the virus could spread again after this week’s traditional Chuseok autumn holidays, when people usually travel to visit their relatives. Health authorities have urged people to refrain from traveling this year because of the risk of spreading the virus. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the 38 cases added in the last 24 hours took the country’s total to 23,699 with 407 deaths. Seventeen of the new cases were reported in the Seoul area, which has seen a resurgence that forced more stringent social distancing rules.
— Authorities are concerned by a COVID-19 outbreak aboard a cargo ship off the Australian northwest coast. Eight more members of the Filipino crew tested positive, bringing the number of infections to 17 out of a crew of 21. Seven of the infected sailors remained aboard the bulk carrier Patricia Oldendorff, which is anchored off Port Hedland, a major iron ore export terminal, Western Australia State Health Minister Roger Cook said on Tuesday. The seven are part of an essential skeleton crew of nine. The other 10 infected crew members were in hotel quarantine at Port Hedland. Cook said he wanted to bring the skeleton crew ashore, but the ship would need a replacement crew and to undergo a deep clean before that replacement crew boarded. Health authorities have warned of potentially disastrous consequences if the virus spreads among the Port Hedland community, particularly surrounding Indigenous populations. The ship’s Germany-based operator Oldendorff said the crew were tested for COVID-19 in the Philippines before boarding the ship on Sept. 5. The ship arrived off Port Hedland on Sept. 16 when two crew members were reported ill.
— The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus passed 1 million, nine months into a crisis that has devastated the economy, tested world leaders’ resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work. The bleak milestone recorded by Johns Hopkins University is almost certainly a vast undercount because of testing and counting issues, and the number continues to grow, with about 5,000 deaths reported daily.