MANILA: The Philippines reported 4,933 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday (Aug 22), the fifth straight day above 4,000 cases, and 26 more deaths.
In a bulletin, the health ministry said the total number of confirmed cases in the country has increased to 187,249 while fatalities have reached 2,966. The Philippines has the most infections in Southeast Asia, and second-highest number of deaths, behind Indonesia.
On Monday, the government eased a strict lockdown in and around the capital Manila as President Rodrigo Duterte promised a "refreshed" approach to fighting COVID-19 that included intensified testing.
Duterte, in a televised address, said there was a need to reopen the economy with small and medium enterprises "barely surviving", while at the same time calling on the public to "follow the safeguards".
The Philippines fell into recession for the first time in 29 years with a record slump in the second quarter, due to the pandemic-induced lockdown.
The quarantine measures were reimposed in the capital and nearby provinces from Aug 4 to Aug 18 after a group of doctors and nurses warned that the healthcare system could collapse.
Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said the government used the two-week window to "refresh" and "reboot" its responses against the coronavirus pandemic, to allow for business activity to resume and let more people to go back to work.
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Under the relaxed rules, which took effect on Wednesday, most businesses including dine-in services were allowed to reopen.
Religious services were also permitted, provided that houses of worship limit total attendance to 30 per cent of a building's capacity.
"We will intensify our testing," Roque said, adding the government will continue to conduct house-to-house checks to trace COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms so they could be escorted to isolation centres.
The government has so far tested more than 1.9 million people and it aims to test 10 million people - or nearly a tenth of the population - by the second quarter of next year.