MANILA: Thousands of police personnel were deployed to the streets of Manila on Friday to impose a two-week strict lockdown as the Philippines battles a new surge of COVID-19 cases.
The national capital region and four neighboring provinces, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite, which together have a population of about 25 million, have been placed under lockdown until Aug. 20 to stop community transmission of the highly contagious delta variant, which health officials say may overwhelm the health system.
The Philippines on Friday reported 10,623 new coronavirus cases — the largest single-day increase in infections in almost four months. Total confirmed cases are now over 1.6 million, with almost 29,000 COVID-19-related deaths. The country now has the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.
Only authorized workers of essential businesses, persons in medical emergencies, those buying food and going for vaccination can leave their homes. Police checkpoints have been set up on the capital region’s borders and a curfew was imposed in the capital region from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m.
Philippine National Police chief Guillermo Eleazar told reporters that more than 25,000 police officers were patrolling lockdown areas, and guarding quarantine centers and vaccination sites to prevent unauthorized movement. He added that officers will hand out fines to people who do not observe the restrictions.
“We will not arrest anyone. We will just deny them passage,” he said, adding that lockdown violators will be issued tickets and sent back home.
Police have also been deployed to vaccination sites after people jammed health centers in Manila on Thursday following rumors that unvaccinated residents would be deprived of cash aid during the lockdown. The incident raised concerns that overcrowding could turn vaccination campaigns into potential superspreader events.
“I have instructed all police chiefs to coordinate with local CEOs to determine the vaccination rules and processes in their areas,” Eleazar said.
After Thursday’s incident, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 urged the public to avoid panicking as 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were allocated to the national capital area and its neighboring provinces this month.
The supply will soon increase as the country expects to receive 22.7 million doses from various manufacturers and sources in August.
So far, less than 10 percent of the country’s population of 110 million people has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.