Asia Today: More businesses reopen in Philippine capital

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A worker arranges chairs as they temporarily convert a public school to a COVID-19 quarantine facility in Quezon city, Philippines on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, as the government further eased lockdown restrictions despite the country having the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA – Fitness gyms, barber shops and internet cafes were allowed to reopen partly in the Philippine capital Tuesday as the government further eased quarantine restrictions despite the country having the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, placed the southern city of Iligan under a mild lockdown after a rise in community infections, underscoring how COVID-19 cases have spread away from metropolitan Manila, the epicenter of the country's outbreak.

Nighttime curfews have been shortened in most cities in the capital area and outlying provinces under the new arrangements, which will last for a month.

Duterte also said medical personnel would get free food and lodging if they would otherwise be ejected by landlords and dormitory owners fearing they were virus carriers. If the landlords get sick “don’t let them into hospitals too, maybe that’s better, tit-for-tat,” the tough-talking president said, but later added he was joking.

More than 220,000 COVID-19 cases, including about 3,500 deaths, have been reported in the Philippines, which has struggled to balance public restrictions and economic concerns.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India added nearly 70,000 new coronavirus cases, its lowest daily increase in the last six days, driving its total near 3.7 million. The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported 819 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 65,288. India's increases have been the highest in the world almost daily for nearly three weeks. It is conducting nearly 1 million tests every day. The federal government also announced Parliament will resume from Sept. 14 with strict social distancing. It had adjourned, with no set date for resumption, in March just before a nationwide lockdown was imposed to halt the spread of the virus.

Hong Kong began voluntary mass-testing for coronavirus to try to break the chain of transmission for COVID-19. More than half a million residents registered in advance for the effort taking place at more than 100 testing centers in the city. The virus-testing program is aimed at identifying silent carriers without symptoms who could be spreading the disease. It has become a flashpoint of political debate in Hong Kong. Many are distrustful over resources and staff provided by China’s central government and fear that their DNA could be collected during the exercise.