World

Manila emerges from one of world’s longest coronavirus lockdowns

Most businesses and limited public transport resume, but children and the elderly have to stay home

MANILA: Manila emerged yesterday from one of the world's longest coronavirus lockdowns as the Philippines seeks to repair its badly damaged economy even as the number of new infections surges.

Streets in the capital were choked with traffic and limited public transport resumed as commuters flooded back to work in the city of 12 million after nearly three months of strict home quarantine.

Most businesses have been allowed to reopen, but schools, bars, dine-in restaurants all remain shuttered.

"The virus is frightening but it is either you die from the virus or you die from hunger," salesman Himmler Gaston, 59, told AFP as he entered the train station where commuters had their temperatures checked.

The country reported three new deaths and 552 more confirmed cases yesterday.

There have been 960 deaths and 18,638 cases in total, but experts fear limited testing means the true figures are likely much higher.

There has been a roughly 30 per cent jump in new cases in the past week, which health officials said was mainly due to efforts to clear backlogs from laboratories as they boost testing.

Quarantine measures to contain the virus vary across the Philippines, but the strictest and longest lockdown has been in Manila, the centre of the country's outbreak.

It shut down in mid-March at about the same time hard-hit France and Spain issued their stay-at-home orders.

While those countries have steadily loosened their restrictions in recent weeks, Manila started allowing outdoor exercise only two weeks ago.

Even now, children and the elderly have to stay home unless they are out getting essentials or headed to work.

The tough measures have hurt millions of workers in Manila, which accounts for more than a third of the country's economic output.

In the rest of South-east Asia, Malaysia recorded 38 new cases yesterday, bringing the total number of infections to 7,857.

Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said out of the 38 new cases, 26 were imported.

He said the 26 imported cases were of infections that happened abroad, while the 12 local transmitted cases involved six foreigners and six Malaysians.

He added that the country saw no Covid-19 deaths for the tenth consecutive day, keeping the death toll at 115.

Thailand reported one new case yesterday and no new deaths, taking the total number of infections to 3,082, of which 57 were fatalities.

Some experts, however, say a lack of testing may mask the true toll.

People returned to some of Thailand's famed sandy beaches yesterday, keeping well apart but enjoying the outdoors, as the authorities eased some restrictions for the first time in more than two months.

Social distancing rules still applied, with local authorities ordering beachgoers to stay at least a metre apart.

Indonesia yesterday reported 467 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 26,940.

It also reported 28 new deaths, taking the total to 1,641. - AFP, THE STAR, REUTERS

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