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Crowd, traffic back in Metro Manila as restriction ease


Traffic jams and outdoor crowds are back in the Philippine capital and 38 other cities and provinces

MANILA – Traffic jams and outdoor crowds returned to Metro Manila and 38 other cities and provinces on Tuesday after officials allowed businesses and public transportation, including shopping malls, movie theaters, and restaurants, to operate at full capacity as COVID-19 cases continued to drop as more vaccinations were administered, officials said.

From Tuesday to March 15, authorities placed metropolitan Manila and 38 other regions on the lowest rung of a five-tier pandemic alert system, lifting most health restrictions but requiring full vaccination of residents 18 and older against the coronavirus and the wearing of face masks outdoors and in indoor establishments.

Social distancing is no longer required, restaurants can now remove plastic barriers from tables, and public gatherings — such as birthday parties, weddings, sporting events, and family reunions — can resume in full. All government employees have been directed to return to work.

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

When successive COVID-19 outbreaks struck two years ago, the Philippines imposed one of the longest lockdowns and police-enforced quarantines in history, sparking the worst economic recession in 2020 and pushing unemployment and hunger to record highs.

Economic growth has resumed since then, and Lopez believes it will return to pre-pandemic levels this year unless external turbulence such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine worsens.

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

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