Manila locks down as Philippines virus cases near four-month high

  • Manila capital region enters two-week lockdown
  • Daily COVID-19 cases, deaths highest since April
  • 450 Delta variant cases detected but sequencing capacity limited
  • Manila to vaccinate 4 mln people during lockdown - officials

MANILA, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The Philippines placed its Manila capital region under a two week lockdown on Friday as the Southeast Asian country's health ministry reported 10,623 new coronavirus cases, the largest single-day jump in infections for almost four months.

The Philippines is battling one of Asia's biggest COVID-19 outbreaks and has seen a steady rise in infections over the last two weeks which health officials have attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.

"The national government together with local governments should act aggressively, as if there is already community transmission," health ministry spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference, referring to the highly contagious variant.

"All of the areas in the national capital region have positive two week growth rates (in cases)," she added.

The surge has pushed the number of confirmed cases in the Philippines to nearly 1.64 million, while the 247 additional deaths recorded on Friday brought the fatality count in the country to 28,673.

To enforce lockdown orders, police have set up quarantine checkpoints around the Manila capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities home to more than 13 million people.

Just 9.8 million people, or nearly 9% of the Philippines' 110 million population, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Manila officials said they would use the two-week lockdown period to vaccinate four million people in the capital region. The Philippines is aiming to vaccinate up to 70 million people this year.

A total of 450 confirmed cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 have been detected in the Philippines. Experts believe the true figure could be much higher, however, due to a lack in genome sequencing capacity in the country.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Adrian Portugal; Editing by James Pearson

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