Traffic jams back in Philippine capital as restrictions ease | Health

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Traffic jams and outdoor crowds are back in the Philippine capital and 38 other cities and provinces on Tuesday after officials allowed businesses and public transportation, including malls, movie theaters and restaurants, to close as COVID-19 spread operate at full capacity. 19 cases continued to decline with more vaccinations, officials said.

To further boost the pandemic-hit economy, authorities placed metropolitan Manila and 38 other regions under the lowest tier of a five-tier pandemic alert system from Tuesday through March 15, lifting most health restrictions but still requiring residents to be fully vaccinated 18 years against the coronavirus and wearing face masks outdoors and indoors.

Social distancing is no longer required in Manila and the other designated areas, restaurants can now remove plastic barriers on tables, and public gatherings — such as birthday parties, weddings, sporting events and family reunions — can fully resume. All government employees have been ordered to return to the office for work.

“Now everything is open,” said Secretary of Commerce Ramon Lopez. “We’re happy to see traffic again, it means there’s really economic activity and people are going out.”

The Philippines imposed one of its longest lockdowns and police-enforced quarantines two years ago, as back-to-back COVID-19 outbreaks hit and sparked the worst economic recession of 2020, driving unemployment and hunger to record levels.

Daily COVID-19 cases fell to under 1,000 from over 37,000 during the last peak in January. The 951 cases reported Monday brings the total number of confirmed infections to more than 3.6 million with 56,451 deaths, the second-highest total in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

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Updated: March 1, 2022 — 7:27 am

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