Philippines cases slip, Dutch cases spike

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Coronavirus restrictions are being eased in the Philippines amid a drop in infections while the Netherlands deals with a surge in cases.

The Philippines reported an 11-month daily low in COVID-19 cases on Tuesday as authorities scrapped the mandatory use of face shields.

The Department of Health said only 849 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Tuesday, pushing the country's total caseload since the beginning of the pandemic to more than 2.81 million.

The daily tally was the lowest since December 2020 but the department said it was "largely due to the regular low testing output coming from the weekend".

The death toll was up by 99, to 45,808, the department said.

Daily cases have been declining since last month, prompting the government to further ease coronavirus restrictions in the country, even allowing children to go out of their homes after nearly two years.

Late on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the mandatory use of face shields for people in areas where risk is considered low to medium such as the capital region of Metro Manila, said presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles.

"In Metro Manila and other areas under alert level 1, 2 and 3, the use of face shields is no longer required in public places," he told a press briefing on Tuesday.

Nograles said Duterte also urged local government units to consider imposing age restrictions for access to shopping malls.

"Certainly we cannot allow those below 12 years old or those still unvaccinated to be exposed to the risk of COVID-19 in public places," Nograles quoted Duterte as saying.

The government had only decided on November 5 to allow children - even those who are unvaccinated - to go to malls and dine indoors in restaurants.

That change in policy came nearly two years after the government imposed a lockdown in March 2020.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands recorded its highest weekly number of positive coronavirus tests over the last seven days as MPs on Tuesday discussed legislation to limit unvaccinated people from using the country's COVID-19 pass system.

The country's public health institute reported on Tuesday that the number of positive tests rose by 44 per cent to 110,558, the highest weekly total since the pandemic began.

Hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients rose 12 per cent and admissions to intensive care units by 3 per cent, it said.

The institute said 173 people died of COVID-19 during the past week, bringing the Netherlands' death toll in the pandemic to 18,785.

A new partial lockdown came into force on Saturday across the Netherlands, with bars, restaurants and supermarkets ordered to close at 8pm, masks mandated in more places and people urged to work from home as much as possible.

The Dutch government wants to make its COVID-19 passes mandatory in more places and to empower employers to check the passes of their staff.

The government also wants to allow businesses that are required to check the passes of customers the option of limiting access to only people who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.

A similar system is in use in Austria and parts of Germany.

with AP

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