Manila (Agenzia Fides) - The "total lockdown" imposed for a month on the island of Luzon, the region where the capital Manila is located, to combat the coronavirus pandemic, will have a very strong impact, especially on the poorest and most vulnerable: says to Agenzia Fides Father Andreas Chang, South Korean missionary in the Philippines and director of the St. Joseph Medical Center in Malabon, on the outskirts of Manila. On March 16, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte decreed a "community quarantine" until April 15 on the island of Luzon, which is home to at least 57 million people. The closure of schools, offices, transport, and all economic and commercial activities has been ordered, excluding pharmacies and food. The stringent measures taken block over half of the country's population in an attempt to curb coronavirus outbreaks. The government invites people to stay in their homes, while only essential services are guaranteed. Hundreds of checkpoints are scattered across the island of Luzon to control people's movements.
The St. Joseph Health Center in Manila provides free medical care and nutrition for the poor people in cities, especially women and children. "We are unable to help the poor because of the federal government-imposed quarantine", said Father Chang. In compliance with government measures, "We are concerned about the poor", said Father Chang. "Thousands of people who survive thanks to small daily chores like 'pedicab drivers' (riders who do small transport by bike), and many other types of small workers have no job at the moment and many families will struggle to survive", explained the priest. "These people have to worry about eating and their survival at the moment. The coronavirus crisis is becoming a very tough test for the poor. When a natural disaster or a crisis like the current one occurs, the most affected people are mostly poor, most exposed, who are not prepared for any countermeasure or have no shock absorbers", notes Father Chang. For the time being St. Joseph Health Center closed its activities until April 14. "But now it is time to take care of each other despite the current situation", he notes.
Frederick Trigs, a resident in Manila, father of three teenage children, tells Fides: "First of all, we must have enough food for our family. The situation does not allow us to work outside. We are poor. There is great confusion and disorientation". In this critical phase, the Philippine Church is studying extraordinary possibilities and measures to meet the needs of the poorest.
The coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) has infected over 220 people in the Philippines so far and has killed 7 people. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 18/3/2020)