Philippines extends coronavirus restrictions in Manila as cases surge

Passengers wearing masks for protection against COVID-19 maintain social distancing while queueing to ride a bus in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines. (REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo)
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Updated 31 July 2020

Philippines extends coronavirus restrictions in Manila as cases surge

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday extended coronavirus restrictions in the capital Manila until mid-August and said the Southeast Asian country would be given priority by China if supplies of a vaccine became available.
The Philippines this month recorded Southeast Asia’s biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths and biggest single-day increase in confirmed infections.
The capital region, provinces south of it, and cities in central Philippines were placed under general community quarantine, limiting movement of elderly and children, and the capacity of business establishments.
“My plea is to endure some more. Many have been infected,” Duterte said in a televised address.
Duterte promised free vaccines if they became available by late this year, prioritizing first the poor and then the middle class, police and military personnel. The Philippines will be given precedence by China in vaccine distribution, he said.
Several pharmaceutical companies from China, the United States and the United Kingdom are conducting late-stage trials on vaccines.
The Philippines planned to buy 40 million doses worth $400 million for 20 million people, around a fifth of the country’s 107 million population, said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
“Once the vaccine is available I am sure can fully open,” Dominguez said.
The Philippines has Southeast Asia’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections after Indonesia, with cases jumping nearly five-fold to 89,374 and deaths more than doubling to 1,983 since a tough lockdown was eased in June.


Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

Updated 13 August 2020

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

  • Spotlight on economy, security as 67 officials take oath in palace ceremony

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath of office to 28 new Cabinet ministers and 39 state ministers on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Kandy Royal Palace, a week after the Aug. 5 general elections.

“The Cabinet has been formed in a pragmatic and a realistic manner to implement the national program. Special attention was paid to national security, economic development, infrastructure, education, health and sports,” a Presidential Secretariat statement said.

While President Rajapaksa retained the defense portfolio, his brother, Namal Rajapaksa — the 34-year-old son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — was named minister for youth and sports.

Several senior politicians, including former president Maithripala Sirisena, were left out of the new Cabinet.

The ninth parliament is set to meet on Aug. 20.

Only two members from minority communities, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, were appointed from the Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

“I’m delighted to get this portfolio in recognition of my services to the nation, particularly to the legal field,” Sabry said.

He is the second Muslim justice minister to assume office after Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, led by PM Rajapaksa, polled 6,853,690, or 59 percent of votes, and secured a total of 145 seats in parliament, including 17 of the National List seats.

Sabry said government efforts to limit the coronavirus pandemic had “impressed the nation enough to vote them into power.”

Lawyer Razik Zarook said: “It’s a great victory for the Muslim community. The era of mistrust and suspicion is over, and the foundation is laid to build the bridges of friendship and amity.”

However, international political lobbyist Muheed Jeeran told Arab News that though the Cabinet is promising, it is “full of confusion.”

“Sabry’s appointment has disappointed the nationalist group who want to implement one nation, one law,” he said.

“But it is a joyful moment for Muslims who supported the SLPP. However, it will be difficult for Sabry as justice minister. Will he become the wooden handle of the axe to chop the tree of traditional Muslim laws as per the nationalist agenda, or will he stand for Muslim rights?”