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Asia Today: Duterte easing lockdown in Philippine capital

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is relaxing a lockdown in the capital, the country’s epicenter of coronavirus infections, in a tightrope move as the economy weakens and the government spends money to help feed millions of poor families restricted to their homes.

Duterte said Thursday night that metropolitan Manila will move to a more relaxed quarantine on Monday after more than two months of police- and military-enforced lockdown that restrained public mobility and most economic activities. The economy contracted in the first quarter in its weakest run in two decades.

More work and business operations, along with public transport, will be allowed to resume under the new arrangement, but physical distancing, face masks and other safeguards will continue to be required. Classes will remain suspended.

In this photo provided by the Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, delivers a speech at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Thursday May 28, 2020. The government continues to ease the lockdown which was set to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the country. (Ace Morandante Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP)

Duterte made the televised announcement hours after the Department of Health reported a single-day spike of 539 infections, more than 60% of them in the congested capital. That brought the total number of infections to 15,588, including 921 deaths.

Duterte warned the danger is far from over. “Remember that the entire nation is still under quarantine,” Duterte said. “The state has every right to control your movement if you pass on a contagion to the population.”

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

In this photo provided by the Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, gestures as he talks to cabinet officials at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Thursday May 28, 2020. The government continues to ease the lockdown which was set to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the country. (Ace Morandante Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP)

— South Korea reported 58 new cases of the coronavirus, all of them in the Seoul area, as officials scramble to stem transmissions linked to a massive e-commerce warehouse near the capital. The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought national totals to 11,402 infections and 269 deaths. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for officials to examine working conditions at warehouses of online shopping companies, which have seen orders surge during the epidemic, and other congested workplaces where infections risks may be high. South Korea has reported 177 new COVID-19 cases over the past three days, a resurgence that threatens to erase some of its hard-won gains against the virus and worsen what’s already a massive shock on its trade-dependent economy. South Korea’s factory output plunged 6% in April from a month earlier, the sharpest decline since December 2008, as global outbreaks and lockdowns battered exports, Statistics Korea said Friday.

— China on Friday again reported no new daily increase in cases of coronavirus and no new deaths. Just 70 people remain in hospital being treated for COVID-19 and another 414 are being isolated and monitored for possibly having the disease or for having tested positive without showing any symptoms. China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths from the disease among 82,995 cases.