The Philippines has begun to ease coronavirus restrictions, even as the number of infections and deaths continues to rise, nearly two months since a lockdown was imposed on the most populous island.
The government placed areas with few cases of COVID-19 under a more relaxed form of quarantine starting from Friday, allowing work, public transportation and commercial establishments, including shopping malls, to resume operations at a reduced capacity.
The so-called general community quarantine still requires people to maintain physical distancing, wear face masks when outside their homes, and practice strict hand hygiene, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
"People can go out of their homes but only for essential or work-related activities," he said. "Leisurely trips are still not allowed."
The capital of Manila, as well as 15 provinces and three cities around the country, are under stricter lockdown until May 15.
The lockdown or "enhanced community quarantine" was first imposed in mid-March over the entire island of Luzon, where Manila is located and which is home to about 57 million people, or half of the Philippines' population.
Under the lockdown, only one person per household is allowed to leave their homes to buy supplies, while public transport and work are suspended. Shopping centres are still closed.
The Department of Health on Friday reported 284 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, bringing the national tally to 8772. The death toll from the highly infectious disease rose to 579, with 11 new deaths.
Australian Associated Press