Philippines extending state of calamity for virus pandemic

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is extending a state of calamity declared by his predecessor more than two years ago to deal with continuing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, an official said Monday.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles also said a previously announced plan to lift the compulsory wearing of masks outdoors will take effect immediately throughout the country, except in crowded areas where people cannot observe social distancing.

The Philippines and Myanmar were the last two countries in Southeast Asia that still required the wearing of masks outdoors, Philippine officials said.

They said they would assess whether indoor mask requirements can be lifted toward the end of the year in areas where an increased number of people receive coronavirus booster shots.

Previous President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity in March 2020 because of the coronavirus, and then extended it to allow emergency funds to be disbursed rapidly.

Cruz-Angeles said at a news conference that the state of calamity, which was to expire Monday, may be be extended by about three months, primarily to allow emergency purchases and provide hazard allowances for health care workers.

The Philippines, among the hardest hit by the coronavirus in Southeast Asia, imposed one of the longest lockdowns in the world, which caused its worst economic recession in decades and deepened poverty, hunger and unemployment.