Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020


Coronavirus: UAE residents tell of life back in lockdown in the Philippines

The capital Manila reinstated stay-home measures on Tuesday after the number of active Covid-19 cases passed the 100,000 mark

Poonam Gandhi says the new lockdown in Manila is not ideal, but necessary. Courtesy: Poonam Gandhi
Poonam Gandhi says the new lockdown in Manila is not ideal, but necessary. Courtesy: Poonam Gandhi

UAE residents stuck in Manila said they were not surprised the government imposed a second lockdown due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

A raft of strict rules, including a nightly curfew, were enforced in the Philippines capital and nearby provinces on Tuesday for a period of two weeks.

Residents from the Emirates who are staying in the city said the government was too lax about enforcing social distancing rules in public places.

Others said people ignored precautionary measures, such as wearing a mask, which was a major factor in the resulting clamp down.

According to the new rules, each house has been issued with a permit that allows only one family member to go outside to purchase essential items like groceries or medicine.

Poonam Gandhi, a Dubai resident who landed in Manila in late February, said the new restrictions on movement were not ideal, but necessary.

“I’m staying in Makati and things have really quietened down now,” she told The National.

“When the first lockdown was lifted it wasn’t as busy as usual but people were still failing to practice social distancing.

“The lack of manpower made it difficult to enforce the rules and people took advantage.

“Now, public transport has stopped and we have a nightly curfew so we have to stay home.

“It isn’t great but I understand why the government is doing it.”

Ms Gandhi, a 35-year-old freelance writer who was born in the Philippines, said she planned to return to Dubai in June but extended her three month trip due to the earlier flight disruptions due to border closures.

She has now altered her travel plans for a second time due to the reinstated lockdown and spike in cases.

“I don’t have the best immunity so I don’t want to travel on a long haul flight or head to a busy airport, I won’t feel safe,” she said.

“If I stay within my community and remain at home it will be better for me, but the vibe of the city has changed, it is very quiet.

“People need to abide by the curfew and all other rules because the more they do the less cases we will see.”

Another UAE resident, who has been staying with her family in Manila since March, said the latest lockdown was necessary to ensure people got the message about social distancing.

“If you go out now without a mask and the police see you they will send you to jail for a week or two,” said 37-year-old Filipino Yara Sollidara, who works in Al Ain as a HR manager.

“The message is getting through. If you go out without a mask you could end up in jail and it’s made people scared to leave their homes unnecessarily.”

She said another major impact of the new lockdown has been the closure of all public transportation in Manila.

“It’s only private transport that is allowed now and even then you need a permit,” she said.

On Monday, with less than 24 hours’ notice, the Philippine government announced news of a second lockdown after the number of active Covid-19 cases passed the 100,000 mark.

A prominent medical group in the country warned the healthcare system could collapse from the soaring cases and Francis Lim, president of the Management Association of the Philippines, said it was “a bitter but necessary pill” given the plight of medical frontliners.

People have been told to stay home unless they need to go out to buy essential goods, for exercise or for work.

Updated: August 5, 2020 03:25 PM

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