Philippines relaxes anti-virus measures as government looks to reboot economy

President Rodrigo Duterte during his speech at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Thursday. (AP)
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Updated 01 June 2020

Philippines relaxes anti-virus measures as government looks to reboot economy

  • Capital has been under quarantine since March 15

MANILA: The Philippines will relax coronavirus restrictions in the capital from Monday, as the government scrambles for ways to reboot the country’s crisis-hit economy.

Metro Manila has been under quarantine since March 15, making it one of the longest lockdowns in the world, resulting in millions of Filipinos losing their jobs after businesses were forced to shut down or lay off their employees.

President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that the National Capital Region would be placed under general community quarantine from Monday, thereby allowing more industries to reopen.

“Tomorrow, June 1, the country will shift to GCQ/MGCQ (general or modified community quarantine),” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque. “As more sectors and industries begin to operate, let us continue cooperating with authorities in enforcing quarantine protocols.”

Metro Manila’s GCQ status means modified checkpoints will be implemented to prevent heavy traffic. Quarantine passes will no longer be a requirement for residents leaving their houses, but people aged 60 and above and those 21 and below, those with immunodeficiencies, as well as pregnant women, will be required to stay home.

Curfew hours will be maintained, however, and a travel pass is required for journeying to other provinces. Traveling for leisure is still prohibited.

Public transport will be allowed with limited capacity, but bus and jeepney operations remain suspended. Trains will be allowed to operate as will shuttle services from private companies, transport network vehicle services and point-to-point buses.

Contactless cashless payments and the use of thermal scanners will be brought in for public transport, and there will also be disinfection of high-touch surfaces in vehicles and the availability of sanitizers for passengers.

Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao, has also been placed under GCQ and so have other areas. The rest of the country will be under MGCQ.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has defined GCQ as the implementation of temporary measures limiting movement and transport, regulation of operating industries, and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols.

Manila International Airport Authority has expressed its readiness to resume domestic flights, as carriers announced they were restarting operations on Monday.

The Civil Aeronautics Board, however, told airlines to cancel their flights on June 1 and to stop selling tickets for that date because the task force had yet to approve the routes for domestic services.

The Bureau of Immigration said it would continue to implement international flight travel restrictions, meaning that most flights remain suspended.

But many people have voiced their concerns on social media about the easing of restrictions, asking if the country is ready for GCQ and pointing to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country despite Metro Manila’s lengthy lockdown. 

As of Saturday the Philippines had recorded 17,224 COVID-19 cases, with 3,808 recoveries and 950 deaths.

The presidential palace has reminded people to continue observing quarantine protocols such as wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, staying at home, and avoiding crowded places.

Furore after Indian police shoot gangster dead

Updated 10 July 2020

Furore after Indian police shoot gangster dead

  • Officials said Dubey was shot as he tried to escape a police vehicle while being driven to his home city
  • Rights lawyers alleged that police killed Dubey to prevent him revealing his connections with powerful people

LUCKNOW: Indian police shot dead one of the country's most wanted gangsters on Friday just a day after his dramatic arrest, sparking accusations of a staged extrajudicial killing.
Officials said Vikas Dubey, detained for the killing of eight police officers, was shot as he tried to escape a police vehicle while being driven to his home city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Within hours of TV stations carrying images of his bloodstained body lying in a hospital, rights lawyers and activists alleged that police had killed Dubey to prevent him revealing his connections with powerful people.
"This is the most blatant case of extra-judicial killing. Dubey was a gangster terrorist who may have deserved to die. But (Uttar Pradesh) police have killed him to shut his mouth," Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan wrote on Twitter.
"Will we allow police to kill anyone without a court trial?" Utsav Bains, another Supreme Court lawyer, added.
Senior opposition Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi said the people "protecting" Dubey were still free and called for a judicial probe into the killing.
Dubey, aged about 50, was accused of more than 60 murders, attempted murders and other crimes. He was said to have shot dead an Uttar Pradesh state minister inside a police station in 2001.
Despite those cases and his reputation for ruthlessness, Dubey has built considerable local political links over the past two decades.
On July 3, eight officers were gunned down when his gang staged an ambush on a police team aiming to arrest him.
A nationwide manhunt was launched, during which five of Dubey's associates -- including his bodyguard nephew -- were killed.
Police said he was tipped off about the deadly raid by local officers, some of whom have been arrested for leaking information to the gangster.
He finally gave himself up in a temple in Madhya Pradesh state on Thursday.
According to the police account, the car transporting him early Friday overturned on a wet road in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and he tried to escape.
"Dubey has been killed in an exchange of fire after he snatched the pistol of our men and tried to flee after firing at them. Four of our men are also injured," Kanpur police inspector general Mohit Agarwal told reporters.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a senior member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, has publicly endorsed police killings as a "deterrent" to crime.
Yogi's government has pledged to root out crime from the state and his tenure has coincided with a surge in the number of criminals dying in police shootouts.
"Encounter killings" have a long history India and for decades shootouts were staged to bypass India's judicial system when police battled armed separatist movements in West Bengal, Punjab, Kashmir and elsewhere.
"History repeats," Nirjhari Sinha, a civil rights leader from western Gujarat state, wrote on Twitter in response to Dubey's death.
"Dead gangsters can't speak about their political patronage."
More recently, suspects accused of violent crimes have died in custody.
Last year, police in southern India shot dead four men accused in the horrific rape and murder of a 27-year-old woman.