Millions in Brisbane and Manila under lockdown as cases spike

BRISBANE : Millions in both Brisbane and Manila were under lockdown yesterday.

In Brisbane, more than two million people were ordered into a three-day lockdown after a cluster of coronavirus cases was detected.

It is the second snap lockdown of the greater Brisbane area this year and comes after seven people tested positive for Covid-19 - the first significant community outbreak in Australia in weeks.

"This is the UK strain. It is highly infectious. We need to do this now to avoid a longer lockdown," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

"We've seen what's happened in other countries. I don't want to see that happen to Queensland, I don't want to see that happen to Australia."

Australia has been relatively successful in curbing the spread of Covid-19, with just over 29,000 cases and 909 deaths to date.

However, the country's vaccine roll-out has been sluggish, with just over 500,000 shots administered so far in a country of 25 million.

The lockdown comes ahead of the long Easter weekend which begins on Friday, throwing school holiday plans into chaos as South Australia closed its border to Brisbane and other states are expected to follow.

Brisbane schools, restaurants and bars were closed from 5pm yesterday but people will still be allowed to leave home for essential work, to buy food, exercise and for medical care.

Meanwhile, more than 24 million people in the Philippines' economic hub entered a lockdown yesterday as officials warned the week-long restrictions could be extended if infections do not fall.

The Health Department yesterday recorded 10,016 cases, the third record daily spike over the past five days, Reuters reported. It has taken the caseload to more than 731,000.

People have been ordered to stay home unless they are essential workers as Metro Manila - the national capital region - and four neighbouring provinces struggle to curb a surge that has strained hospitals.

Only hours into the latest lockdown, the Health Department's epidemiology chief Alethea de Guzman warned it could be prolonged to bring about a "sustained" drop.

"All options are open," said Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who chairs the government's Covid-19 task force. - AFP