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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines' health department vowed on Sunday to update its game plan against COVID-19 within a week and sought to beef up the healthcare workforce in the capital Manila, where medical frontliners are calling for reviving strict lockdowns.

The Southeast Asian country on Saturday reported 4,963 additional coronavirus infections, the largest single-day jump on record, bringing its total confirmed cases to 98,232, while its death toll had climbed to 2,039.

It has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths in the region, behind Indonesia.

In the largest call yet from medical experts to contain the virus, 80 groups representing 80,000 doctors and a million nurses, on Saturday said the Philippines was losing the fight against the disease and warned of a collapse of the healthcare system from soaring infections without tighter controls.

In a statement issued following an unscheduled meeting late on Saturday of the government's coronavirus task force to address the concerns of doctors and nurses, the Department of Health said it would come up with an updated COVID-19 strategy within seven days.

It appealed to healthcare workers in the provinces and those returning from abroad to help beef up the frontline workforce in the capital, and sought help from universities and medical groups in hiring more doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

The government appears reluctant to revive strict curbs on movement in the capital, saying there are other ways to control the spread of the disease.

Still, the health department said it supports the healthcare workers' call for a "timeout" and would "proactively lead the implementation of effective localised lockdowns".

"The battle is not over, and it will not be for a long time yet," the department said in a statement. But "we will marshal all our efforts to turn the tide."

(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by William Mallard)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Navajo Nation Asks Trump to Spare Native American From Execution

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) - Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump to spare the life of the only Native American on federal death row, arguing the U.S. government was infringing tribal sovereignty.

Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo, was convicted of murdering a 9-year-old Navajo girl, Tiffany Lee, and her grandmother Alyce Slim in 2001 on the tribe's territory, which spans four states in the U.S. Southwest.

Mitchell, 38, was sentenced to death in an Arizona federal court over the objection of Navajo officials, who said the tribe's cultural values prohibited taking human life "for vengeance."

Under Trump, the Justice Department resumed executions this year after a 17-year hiatus, killing three condemned men in July at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Last month, the department scheduled Mitchell's execution for Aug. 26, angering some Navajo officials.

"It's a complete slap in the face to our values and our justice system and the deference that's owed to us as guest of ours on this land," Carl Slater, a member of the Navajo Nation Council who represents Mitchell's home district, said in an interview.

Nez is set to address a clemency hearing before the Office of the Pardon Attorney on Tuesday. In a letter to Trump, Nez said a sentence of life in prison would be "appropriate to begin to restore harmony and balance to the affected families and to the inherent sovereignty of the Navajo Nation."

Under the Major Crimes Act, the federal government has jurisdiction over certain major crimes occurring on Indian territory, including murder, but usually cannot pursue capital punishment for a Native American for a crime on tribal land without the tribe's consent.

In Mitchell's case, Navajo officials said they would not give their consent. But John Ashcroft, attorney general under then-President George W. Bush, overrode the objection of federal prosecutors in Arizona.

In what Mitchell's lawyers deride as a legal loophole, federal prosecutors successfully pursued a capital case against Mitchell for carjacking, a capital crime that is not among those listed in the Major Crimes Act.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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