Manila, Jun 1 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people returned to work and the public transport was back on the Manila roads on Monday as the government began relaxing the 78-day strict stay-at-home orders – the longest lockdown in the world – to restart the economy of the Philippines.
The government allowed the opening of more nonessential services even as the Covid-19 infection curve continues to rise across the country.
Almost all establishments were allowed to open – except beauty salons, barbershops, and massage parlors. However, restaurants can only offer takeaways.
“As more sectors and industries begin to operate, let us continue cooperating with authorities in enforcing quarantine protocols,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Sunday evening.
“Let us take care of each other by wearing face masks, face shields, maintaining physical, social distancing, staying at home if (and) when need be and avoiding crowded places, and the like.”
To ensure a two-meter (6.5 feet) distance between people, the government reduced carrying capacity in metro coaches to 15 percent and in buses to 35 percent.
Jeepneys – old World War II military jeeps converted into public transport vehicles – and UV express vans will not be able to operate until the second half of June, making it difficult for thousands of low-income people to travel as they are the cheapest modes of transport in the capital.
Some experts have warned that the start of the de-escalation is premature as the Philippines has not yet managed to control the infections, which exceed 18,000 in the country – 64 percent in the capital – with 957 deaths and only 3,900 patients recovered.
More than 3,000 new cases have been confirmed in the last two days – a daily record since the start of the epidemic, raising doubts whether the country and especially the overcrowded capital, is prepared, from a health point of view, for the de-escalation.
However, easing the lockdown is vital to reviving the economy as millions of families have gone hungry during the quarantine with some even going out into the streets despite the restrictions.
It is estimated that 2.6 million Filipinos have lost their jobs during the lockdown and the figure could reach 10 million by the end of the year as the economy enters recession for the first time since 1998.
In the rest of the Philippines, most provinces, especially the island regions in the central part of the country, have almost returned to normal although big cities such as Cebu and Zamboanga remain in the same phase as Manila. EFE-EPA