May 19, 2024


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Philippines reports 45 new COVID-19 infections, airlines suspend operations

MANILA: The Philippines’ health ministry on Tuesday (Mar 17) reported 45 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the country’s total to 187.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered most of the 55 million people on the main island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, to stay at home for the next month after social distancing measures failed to keep people away from one another.

Philippine Airlines said on Tuesday it will halt its international flights starting Mar 20. 

The flag carrier started cancelling all domestic flights on Tuesday after the government imposed the month-long quarantine in the capital and nearby provinces. It said flights will resume on Apr 13.

The country’s largest budget carrier, Cebu Air also said on Tuesday it is cancelling all domestic and international flights starting from Mar 19 to Apr 14.

The airline, which operates under the brand Cebu Pacific, said it is supporting the Philippine government’s quarantine measures to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Malaysia bars citizens from going overseas, foreigners from entering the country for 2 weeks to curb COVID-19 spread – PM Muhyiddin

Trade on the country’s local stock exchange was suspended on the same day, becoming the first country to close its financial market over coronavirus fears.

Philippine Stock Exchange President Ramon Monzon told traders in a memo that trading is suspended “until further notice” to move in step with Duterte’s order.

Monzon said the suspension was also “to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease”.

The government has unveiled a 27.1 billion peso (US$526.6 million) package to fund hospitals fighting the virus and provide reprieve amid a slowdown in economic activity.

The benchmark PSE index plunged 7.9 per cent during shortened trading on Monday as investors reeled from the virus’ economic impact.

The suspension order came as stock markets and oil prices went into freefall after central banks’ fresh stimulus measures failed to dampen fears of the global pandemic.

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