Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to ease a mild coronavirus lockdown in the capital and four outlying provinces to further reopen the country’s battered economy despite having the most reported infections in Southeast Asia.
People in the country had been under severe lockdown and martial law since February, with people being told to stay home except for vital work and going to markets for food.
Masks were mandatory at all times with fines into the thousands of dollars.
Families could not see each other for months as flights between the islands were also closed down and have only now recommenced albeit at a smaller capacity.
One resident of the Phillipines, Miss Sarimos, told Global News: “I haven’t seen my daughter in six months. She was staying with her grandparents in Manilla whilst I was with friends in Balanga. I was told after the lockdown started that none of us could travel and we had to stay with friends the whole time.”
Miss Sarimos continued: “Though we were literally only across the bay from Manilla we were told we could not travel. It has been a nightmare, every month we were told it would be lessened and we could go home. Then I’d have my heart broken again. I did not see my 7 year old daughter for six months and I nearly lost my mind. Thankfully God has let me be with her today.”
Thousands of tourists have also been stuck on the islands.
With only 24 hours notice of the lockdown at the start of the pandemic many were stranded and have had to pay thousands for hotels with some even losing their jobs in their home nation.
Ruel Damaso, a 36-year-old construction worker who had been trying to return to the southern city of Zamboanga from Manilla for months said: “We had run out of money and we couldn’t leave the airport because we didn’t have any relatives here.”
Military trucks then had to come in and ship cases such as Damaso back to their home towns whilst under armed guard though they were forced to stay at the airport for “weeks.”
However, President Duterte has now allowed some shops to reopen such as restaurants and barbers and gyms giving the islands a sense of normality again.
There have been 202,000 cases of Covid in the Phillipines with 3,137 deaths.
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