Home quarantine no option for thousands in Philippines

ManilaUpdated: Mar 23, 2020, 04:14 PM IST


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Tents have since last week been set up at one shelter in a Manila gymnasium

While millions in the Philippines are finding tight restrictions a little difficult, home quarantine would be luxury for the thousands of urban street dwellers who have no homes to go to.

But temporary shelters being set up in the capital Manila are making life a little easier for those whose presence on the streets is in breach of coronavirus lockdown measures, putting them at risk of arrest.

Tents have since last week been set up at one shelter in a Manila gymnasium, where people wearing cloth masks napped on mats or read books, fanning themselves with sheets of cardboard.

Not all those were permanently on the streets. Some had travelled from the countryside in search of work, but got stranded when the authorities shut down the capital, a city of at least 13 million people.

Social workers said the conditions were far better than on the streets.

"They are given meals three times a day regularly," said social worker Lourdes Penalosa.

"We have a good supply of diapers for babies and sanitary napkins for the women. They are also allowed to bathe every morning."

The Philippines has reported 462 cases of coronavirus and 33 deaths, but health authorities are concerned that the number of infections could be far greater, with only a limited number of tests carried out.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking emergency powers to allow him to redistribute funds and order private and state-run businesses to help the fight against the spread.