Philippines relaxes anti-virus measures as government looks to reboot economy

Philippines relaxes anti-virus measures as government looks to reboot economy
Philippines relaxes anti-virus measures as government looks to reboot economy

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MANILA: The Philippines will relax coronavirus restrictions in the capital from Monday, as the government scrambles for ways to reboot the country’s crisis-hit economy.

Metro Manila has been under quarantine since March 15, making it one of the longest lockdowns in the world, resulting in millions of Filipinos losing their jobs after businesses were forced to shut down or lay off their employees.

President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that the National Capital Region would be placed under general community quarantine from Monday, thereby allowing more industries to reopen.

“Tomorrow, June 1, the country will shift to GCQ/MGCQ (general or modified community quarantine),” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque. “As more sectors and industries begin to operate, let us continue cooperating with authorities in enforcing quarantine protocols.”

Metro Manila’s GCQ status means modified checkpoints will be implemented to prevent heavy traffic. Quarantine passes will no longer be a requirement for residents leaving their houses, but people aged 60 and above and those 21 and below, those with immunodeficiencies, as well as pregnant women, will be required to stay home.

Curfew hours will be maintained, however, and a travel pass is required for journeying to other provinces. Traveling for leisure is still prohibited.

Public transport will be allowed with limited capacity, but bus and jeepney operations remain suspended. Trains will be allowed to operate as will shuttle services from private companies, transport network vehicle services and point-to-point buses.

Contactless cashless payments and the use of thermal scanners will be brought in for public transport, and there will also be disinfection of high-touch surfaces in vehicles and the availability of sanitizers for passengers.

Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao, has also been placed under GCQ and so have other areas. The rest of the country will be under MGCQ.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has defined GCQ as the implementation of temporary measures limiting movement and transport, regulation of operating industries, and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols.

Manila International Airport Authority has expressed its readiness to resume domestic flights, as carriers announced they were restarting operations on Monday.

The Civil Aeronautics Board, however, told airlines to cancel their flights on June 1 and to stop selling tickets for that date because the task force had yet to approve the routes for domestic services.

The Bureau of Immigration said it would continue to implement international flight travel restrictions, meaning that most flights remain suspended.

But many people have voiced their concerns on social media about the easing of restrictions, asking if the country is ready for GCQ and pointing to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country despite Metro Manila’s lengthy lockdown. 

As of Saturday the Philippines had recorded 17,224 COVID-19 cases, with 3,808 recoveries and 950 deaths.

The presidential palace has reminded people to continue observing quarantine protocols such as wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, staying at home, and avoiding crowded places.

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