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Women walk past mannequins wearing face masks advertised for sale, at a shop in Makati city, Philippines. Image Credit: AP

The Philippines has allowed malls and several businesses to reopen further even as the Southeast Asian nation recorded more coronavirus deaths last month.

The task force against the virus outbreak has approved economic managers' recommendation to reopen more industries and public transport, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said at a briefing Monday. Essential shops in malls, miners and money exchanges are now allowed to operate at full capacity, he said.

Restaurants can now operate round-the-clock, while malls can stay open until 11 p.m. Salons and barbershops can also run at 75% capacity. Current quarantine classifications are expected to be maintained, and will only be changed as last resort if Covid-19 cases are rising, Roque said.

The economic contraction, projected to be as much as 6.6% this year, might reverse the country's gains in poverty reduction, according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua. He said poverty incidence might "temporarily climb" to 17.5% although the government's goal of reducing it to 14% by 2022 remains achievable. About 16.6% of Philippine population lived below the poverty line in 2018, latest Asian Development Bank data show.

The Philippines is seeking a balance between curtailing the worst outbreak in Southeast Asia and reviving an economy that plunged into recession in the second quarter. Covid cases in the country have risen to nearly 325,000 as of Oct. 5.

Coronavirus deaths rose by over 1,900 in September, the highest monthly increase since the start of the pandemic. New virus cases, meanwhile, decreased to more than 90,000 last month from 127,000 in August. Improved contact tracing has been the critical factor in slowing the virus spread, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a separate virtual briefing Monday.