Philippines locks down Metro Manila due to coronavirus fears

Philippines locks down Metro Manila due to coronavirus fears

Philippines locks down Metro Manila due to coronavirus fears

Just as the Philippines was recovering its popularity with expats looking to settle in Southeast Asia, Metro Manila’s mega city has been closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past several decades, would-be expats looking for the perfect tropical location mostly headed for Thailand’s southern shores, ignoring Vietnam and Cambodia as too third-world and the Philippines as being old-style. Nowadays, the Philippine archipelago is back on the list for long-stay expatriates for its relaxed, practical attitude towards immigration and its undoubtedly genuine welcome to strangers from another continent.

As well as attracting would-be expats from the West who’re searching for a stress-free retirement haven, the islands are also providing an escape hatch for long-term expats disenchanted with Thailand’s changing attitude towards its resident foreigners and its ever-tougher financial and visa requirements. The trickle was beginning to increase as more realised the huge difference between the two countries’ views of expats, but those still in the planning stages are now blocked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the totals of infections and deaths in the Philippines are lower than in the vast majority of other affected world countries, the government is taking the pandemic seriously by sealing off its capital in order to contain the virus’s spread. Massive malls are deserted, restaurants are closing due to lack of customers and the handful of buses and trains still running are almost empty. Checkpoints are being manned by police, and the military are gearing up to act as border guards along the city’s perimeter.

Air, sea and land access to the mega-capital’s 17 districts is now blocked until the middle of next month, with a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. to be enforced. The city is now cut off from the rest of the archipelago, and test kits are in short supply, as are masks and other preventatives. Prior to the lockdown, a massive exodus began as city-dwellers left for their home towns on other islands, possibly taking the virus with them and resulting in a call for a national lockdown before it’s too late. For expats already living in the region, it’s a far cry from their expectations, but at least they’re still seen as welcome additions to local communities.

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