Thousands of people returned to work in the Philippines yesterday as the country emerged from one of the longest virus lockdowns in the world.
Buses, commuter trains, taxis and modernised jeepneys or mini-buses resumed operations in the capital Manila after 76 days of suspension,
but were only allowed to take in a reduced number of passengers to ensure physical distancing.
“Many people are now allowed to go out and many industries are reopening so you’ll see a lot of vehicles, but the situation remains abnormal,” said Guillermo Eleazar, national deputy police chief for operations.
Long lines were seen at train stations in Manila, while crowds of people waited for buses along the main highway. Some were forced to walk to their places of work or to the highway to get on buses or trains.
Bank teller Gabbie Vilda said that half of her company’s employees are able to work from their homes, but for those who are required to go to the office, like her, they were given face masks, alcohol and hazard pay.
Despite the precautions, she is worried about people who don’t strictly follow health protocols and expose others to risk.
“I feel anxious going to work,” she told ABS-CBN News. “No matter how much you take care of yourself, if there are people who lack discipline or can’t follow protocols, people will get infected.”
The Department of Health reported 552 additional confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Philippines, bringing the national tally to 18,638 yesterday.
The death toll is at 960, following three more morbidities, it added.
Amid warnings by some health experts that infections have not slowed down, the department said the rise in cases was artificial because test results from past cases were only being confirmed and added into the tally.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque cautioned the public against being complacent, stressing that Covid-19 was still a threat even as the country began to shift to a less stringent “general” community quarantine.
“There is no place in the Philippines that is under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ),” he told a press conference.
“But if most of us do not follow the health protocols, fail to observe social or physical distancing, wash our hands and come out, we may return to ECQ and MECQ,” he added.
Philippine carriers are resuming limited international and domestic flights in the week, but had to push back the start of their operations by a couple of days after some provinces asked for more guidelines on incoming passengers. “The problem is local government units are refusing to admit passengers from the domestic flights,” Roque said. “That is being ironed out.”
The carriers stressed that leisure travel was not yet allowed, despite the resumption of flights.
Foreign tourists are still not allowed to enter the Philippines, while only Filipino workers or students abroad are allowed to leave.
The government was expecting 42,000 displaced Filipino migrant workers to return to the Philippines in June.
More than 31,000 Filipino migrant workers have returned home since February, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
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