World

Philippines now has highest number of infections in East Asia

With total of more than 119,000 cases, it overtakes Indonesia

MANILA The Philippines yesterday recorded another jump in coronavirus cases to overtake neighbouring Indonesia as the country with the most confirmed Covid-19 infections in East and South-east Asia.

A recent surge in cases in and around the capital Manila has pushed the authorities to reimpose a lockdown affecting around a quarter of the country's 107 million people.

The Philippines recorded 3,561 new infections yesterday, taking its total of confirmed cases to 119,460.

That is higher than Indonesia's 118,753 infection cases. Indonesia reported 1,882 new infections and 69 additional deaths

The Philippines' death toll rose by 28 to 2,150, which is less than half of Indonesia's 5,521 fatalities, but is expected to grow after the recent spike in cases.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced late on Sunday a two-week lockdown in and around Manila, which accounts for two-thirds of the country's economic output.

The restrictions, which came into effect on Tuesday, were reinstated after a group of doctors and nurses warned that the healthcare system could collapse as a result of a surging number of virus patients.

Public transport has been shut and working from home instituted where possible, with only one person for each household allowed out for essential goods.

ECONOMY

The economy is also on life support.

The country fell into recession for the first time in 29 years with a record slump in the second quarter, as strict lockdown measures ravaged economic activity.

Official data yesterday showed gross domestic product (GDP) tumbling 16.5 per cent in April-June from a year earlier - the biggest slump since comparable GDP data was first recorded in 1981 - after falling a revised 0.7 per cent in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Thailand has delayed plans for a "travel bubble" agreement with select countries as new daily cases rise in parts of Asia, putting pressure on its vital tourism industry and complicating efforts to revive its battered economy.

Thailand first proposed the idea in June to allow movement between select countries that have low infection numbers, without the need for travellers to undergo quarantine.

But that has been shelved, officials said, amid second and third waves in East Asian countries that previously had their outbreaks under control.

"Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were among those considered because those areas had a low number of cases, but now they are in double-digits so discussions were put on hold," said Thailand's coronavirus task force spokesman Taweesin Wisanuyothin.

Despite more than two months without confirmed local transmission and recording only 3,300 cases, South-east Asia's second-largest economy is facing its worst crisis in several decades.

Foreign arrivals plunged 66 per cent in the first six months of the year, to 6.69 million.

The industry has warned that 1.6 trillion baht (S$70.5 billion) of revenue could be wiped out this year.

Malaysia meanwhile recorded 15 new cases bringing total infections to 9,038.

Its death toll remained at 125.

- REUTERS, THE STAR

WORLD