MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine government on Sunday called for vigilance against the coronavirus, a day after hordes of people trooped to shopping malls and ignored safety protocols, as authorities began loosening a two-month lockdown.
Photos and videos showing shoppers in some malls in the capital Manila violating physical distancing rules went viral on Saturday, drawing widespread public criticism and alarm, prompting the government to issue fresh health warnings.
"We advise the public not to be complacent and to follow health protocols set by authorities after we received reports of people who trooped to the malls with complete disregard of social/physical distancing measures," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
The government warned malls would be closed again if they do not strictly implement physical distancing and crowd control measures.
The Southeast Asian country has reported 12,513 cases of coronavirus infections and a death toll of 824.
Fears linger over the possibility of a new wave of novel coronavirus cases following reports of infections accelerating again in Germany, new cases in the city of Wuhan in central China, the origin of the outbreak, and in South Korea.
The Philippines has joined a growing number of countries gradually reopening economies shut down by restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic, although its biggest cities - Manila and Cebu - remain in lockdown.
"We must understand that we have started to slowly ease restrictions in order to revitalize the economy, and not because we are safe," Roque said in a statement. "We must continue to be vigilant of the risks of COVID-19."
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)