MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday approved the imposition of lockdown measures in the capital region, in a bid to contain the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and to shield the country’s medical system.

The Manila capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities home to more than 13 million people, will be placed under the tightest quarantine curbs from Aug. 6 to 20, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a televised address. “While it is a painful decision, this is for the good of all.”

The lockdown will prevent people leaving their homes, except for essential shopping, while indoor and al fresco dining is banned.

The highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, has spread rapidly across much of South-east Asia.

The Philippines also extended a ban on travellers coming from 10 countries including India, Indonesia, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates to Aug. 15.

Already battling the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in Asia, the Philippines has so far recorded over 1.57 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 27,000 deaths.

The country has reported 216 cases of the Delta variant, but health experts say there could be more undetected cases because of the slow pace of the country’s genome sequencing.

The second wave in the Philippine outbreak peaked in April and after mainly trending low infections have started to rise again in recent weeks. Currently hospital occupancy in the capital area is 49 per cent, while the rate for intensive care beds is 58 per cent.

With only 7 per cent of the country’s 110 million people fully vaccinated against Covid-19, tens of millions remain vulnerable to virus. The government is aiming to fully immunise up to 70 million people before the year ends. — Reuters