(Bloomberg) --

Doctors in the Philippines have appealed to the government to reimpose tighter movement restrictions in the area around Manila as coronavirus cases continue to surge.

The heads of about 40 medical societies called on President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday to return metro Manila to strict community quarantine for two weeks to ease a rise in infections and allow health workers to recover from exhaustion.

“Healthcare workers are united in sounding a distressed signal,” Jose Santiago, president of Philippine Medical Association, said. “Our healthcare system has been overwhelmed.”

Doctors also want the country’s Department of Health to be the lead agency in the fight against the pandemic and not leave its implementation to local government units.

Duterte on Friday kept the area around the capital under a more relaxed general community quarantine while imposing localized lockdowns on villages with high infection rates. He said Filipinos may return to their normal lives by December amid global progress in the search for a vaccine.

The Department of Health on Friday said there were 4,063 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day increase, bringing the total to 93,354 -- the second-largest number of infections in Southeast Asia.

Even as Manila and surrounds has the highest number of active virus cases, more businesses including gyms and drive-in cinemas have been allowed to reopen.

The continued spread means preventive measures aren’t effective and a two-week “time out” would allow authorities to come up with a comprehensive plan, Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Maricar Limpin said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that healthcare workers’ concerns will be considered.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.