Thousands return to work as Philippines eases 76-day lockdown

Duterte wants Philippine schools closed until vaccine is ready

Thousands returned to work in the Philippines on Monday 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 Manila after 76 days of suspension, but 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,’’ Guillermo Eleazar, national deputy police chief for operations, said.

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.

In spite of the precautions, she is worried about people who do not strictly follow health protocols and expose others to risk.

“I feel anxious going to work. 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,’’ she told ABS-CBN News.

The country’s department of health said that there are 18,086 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, including 957 deaths as of Sunday.

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Over 60 per cent of the infections and almost 75 per cent of deaths were in Metro Manila.

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 less stringent “general’’ community quarantine.