Philippine police on Sunday warned protesters they would be arrested if they defy a ban on rallies ahead of a speech by President Rodrigo Duterte in Congress.

Activist groups have vowed to push ahead with protests during Duterte's state of the nation address on Monday, despite an announcement by local officials that public assemblies are not allowed due the coronavirus outbreak.

‘If there will be hard-headed protesters, we will be forced to arrest them,’ said Debold Sinas, head of Metro Manila's police force. ‘We are also afraid for our men and the rallyists, because we can't guarantee that our police force is 100-per cent Covid-19 free.’  Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte was expected to discuss how the government would confront the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘This is one of the worst problems that we've faced in decades,’ he said. ‘Under this very uncertain climate and environment around the world, everyone wants to know how the government will act, where will the president take us in the coming months.’  ‘It's very important for people to be assured that they will be able to feed their families, their children will be able to go to school and there is work for them,’ he added.

The annual address will be held at the House of Representatives complex in Quezon City, but only a limited number of legislators will be allowed to personally attend the event.

Everyone will also be subjected to testing before being allowed to enter the House of Representatives hall, Andanar said.

The Department of Health on Sunday reported 2,110 additional confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Philippines, bringing the national tally to 80,448.

The death toll also rose to 1,932 with 39 additional deaths, it added.

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