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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has retained a strict lockdown in a central city he described as a new coronavirus hot spot, while the capital and the rest of the country were placed in lighter quarantines.

President Rodrigo Duterte made the announcement Tuesday night on TV, further stretching three-month lockdowns and quarantines that officials call successful but his critics describe as ridden with failures and confusion.

The Philippines has among the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia with more than 37,500 people infected, including 1,266 who have died.

Duterte blamed Cebu city, which will remain under a lockdown up to July 15, for many violations of the rules that led to infection spikes.

“Cebu is now the hot spot for COVID. Why? Many of you did not follow. So don’t get mad at me,” he said.

The Philippines shut down most businesses in March but has reopened the economy recently as unemployment soared and massive government funds dwindled for cash and food aid for the poor.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— South Korea is considering listing religious facilities with nightclubs, hostess bars and karaoke rooms as “high risk” venues for the spread of COVID-19 following a slew of transmissions tied to church gatherings. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Wednesday more than 40% of the country’s newly confirmed infections over the previous three days were traced to places of worship. He pleaded people to refrain from religious gatherings and criticized churches and other facilities for failing to use proper prevention measures. High-risk facilities are advised to close or otherwise must enforce anti-virus measures and register visitors with smartphone QR codes so virus carriers can be tracked.

— China reported just three new cases Wednesday, all in the capital Beijing where an outbreak last month appears to have run its course amid intense testing and case tracing. No new deaths were reported, leaving the toll at 4,634 among 83,534 cases of COVID-19 recorded since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. With 328 cases reported since June 11, Beijing has reinstated some prevention measures, suspended classes for schoolchildren and carried out 8.3 million virus tests among the city’s more than 20 million residents.

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Buckeye Institute sues Ohio and city of Columbus over income taxes during coronavirus lockdown

A think tank is suing the state of Ohio and the city of Columbus, saying a state law allowing the city to collect income taxes from employees required to work from their homes outside the municipality amid the COVID-19 pandemic is unconstitutional.

The Buckeye Institute and three of its employees – Rea S. Hederman Jr., Greg R. Lawson and Joe Nichols – filed the lawsuit last week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

The Buckeye Institute, which required its employees to work from home to comply with a state order mandating nonessential businesses close, is challenging a provision included in House Bill 197. The legislation “deemed” for tax purposes the work that employees did at home “to have been performed” at their primary office.

That meant Hederman, who lives in Powell; Lawson, who lives in Westerville; and Nichols, who lives in Newark Township; paid Columbus’ higher taxes. The think tank argues the law violates Article I, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“The law in this case is straight out of a dystopic novel: the state first prohibited workers from going into their offices during the Stay-At-Home order, then passed an emergency law absurdly ‘deeming’ all work that was actually performed at home to have been performed in the higher-taxed office location instead,” Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute, said in a statement. “It is a legal fiction, and it is unconstitutional.

“Not only have our employees – along with thousands of others like them across Ohio – had municipal income taxes unlawfully taken from them during the Stay-at-Home order, but The Buckeye Institute also has been forced to participate in perpetrating this constitutional violation, betraying the very principle of limited government that is an essential component of our organization’s mission,” Alt added.

In a statement, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein questioned whether this was the proper time to file such a lawsuit, but said he could not directly comment on it.

“Our office has yet to be served this complaint, so we’re unfamiliar with the particulars of the case at this time,” Klein said. “However, Columbus – and municipalities across Ohio – have been acting in accordance with the Governor’s order and a bipartisan bill passed by state lawmakers.

“In the middle of an untamed and growing pandemic is not the time to upend decades of precedent to wage a philosophical battle about taxes,” Klein added. “Cities across the state stand to lose a massive amount of tax revenue, and there are real-world consequences affecting how we perform essential functions for millions of Ohioans, including taking care of the sick, feeding hungry children, paving our roads and keeping our community safe.”

A spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine said he had no comment since “neither the Governor nor the Ohio Department of Taxation was named as a defendant.” A spokesman for the attorney general said they are reviewing the filing.

The lawsuit names Attorney General Dave Yost and Columbus City Auditor Megan Kilgore as defendants.

States News Ohio Columbus Ohio State Income Taxes Taxes Coronavirus

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