MANILA, Philippines — The approval for many Philippine movie theaters, video game arcades and other leisure businesses to reopen has been postponed another two weeks after mayors expressed fear it will bring new coronavirus infections.
They've been closed since last year in most of the Philippines, which has suffered a pandemic-wrought recession since.
The government had announced it would allow them to reopen Monday, but the delay came after a meeting of local Manila and national officials.
Most mayors under the Metro Manila Development Authority expressed apprehension over the reopening of cinemas and video game arcades. Philippine officials said mayors and health officials should draw rules to ensure safety amid the easing of quarantine restrictions in more public areas, including museums, libraries, parks and historical sites.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque later said in a televised news briefing that the reopening of movie houses would be moved to March 1 to allow consultations and more time to craft safety guidelines.
“We agree that the economy should gradually be reopened because more people now are going hungry than those who get sick or die due to COVID," he said.
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— Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea — A pet cat has become the first animal confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus in the South Korean capital.
Seoul official Song Eun-cheol said Monday the cat was found to have been infected the previous day, after the family that owns her were all diagnosed with the disease.
He says the cat had suffered vomiting and lethargy. It’s being quarantined at a city-run facility.
Seoul last week began providing free coronavirus tests to pet dogs and cats, which come into contact with infected humans and show symptoms. The step came after a cat in the southeastern city of Jinju became the country’s first animal confirmed to have COVID-19 last month. Many other local governments launched similar free virus tests for pet dogs and cats.
Seoul officials say they’ve since tested three other pet dogs but they all tested negative for the virus.
Seoul officials say there is no evidence that animals transmit the virus to humans. But they say authorities will test pets, not all animals, because they are in close contact with humans.
Earlier Monday, South Korea reported 344 new virus cases, taking the country’s total to 83,869 with 1,527 deaths.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Health officials are urging tougher coronavirus restrictions and a partial lockdown in parts of Sri Lanka after patients were confirmed to have a more contagious variant.
Patients in several parts of the Indian Ocean island nation have been confirmed to have a variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom, health officials said Saturday.
“There is a greater risk of spreading the new variant into others areas unless tough and effective measures including lockdowns are taken immediately as already the number of positive cases are rising,” President of the Public Health Inspectors Association Upul Rohana said Monday.
Sri Lanka had a one-month lockdown last March when the first positive case was detected. A lockdown in the capital and its suburbs was imposed again in October after two fresh outbreaks erupted.
Sri Lanka has now confirmed 75,653 cases with 397 fatalities.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has begun registering people aged 65 or older to vaccinate them against COVID-19.
Pakistan’s minister for planning and development, Asad Umar, said Monday on Twitter their vaccinations will start in March.
Currently, Pakistani authorities are vaccinating only frontline health workers after receiving 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
Pakistan also has reported one of its lowest daily tolls in recent months, with 26 deaths and 1,048 new cases.
The country has had 12,333 fatalities because of COVID-19 among 564,077 cases of the coronavirus since February 2020.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia will begin vaccinating its population against COVID-19 next week after its first shipment of Pfizer vaccine was delivered on Monday.
More than 142,000 doses had arrived at Sydney airport, the government said. Health care, aged care and quarantine workers will be among the first to be vaccinated from Feb. 22.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will also be among the first to receive a dose in a bid to raise public confidence in the program.
Australia decided against accelerating the vaccine regulator’s approval process in order to increase public confidence that the Pfizer product was safe.
So far, Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for use in Australia. But the regulator is expected to also approve the AstraZeneca vaccine soon.
Australia is contracted to receive 20 million Pfizer doses and to receive or manufacture at home 53.8 million AstraZeneca doses.