Asia Today: Philippines sees traffic jams as lockdown eases

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Students walk past a sticker to remind students to keep their social distancing as they arrive for the reopening of a primary school in Beijing, Monday, June 1, 2020. With declining virus case numbers, students have gradually returning to their classes in the capital city. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BANGKOK – Traffic jams and crowds of commuters returned to the Philippine capital on Monday, as the metropolis relaxed antivirus measures in a high-stakes gamble to slowly reopen the economy while fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Commuter trains, taxis, ride-sharing cars, special shuttle buses and motorcycles rumbled back on the roads in metropolitan Manila but were only allowed to carry a fraction of their capacity as a safeguard.

Public transport was still limited under the relaxed rules and many commuters waited for hours to get a ride despite the government's deployment of buses.

A larger swarm of private cars also helped choke roads.

“Many people are now allowed to go out and many industries are reopening so you’ll see a lot of vehicles ... but the situation remains abnormal,” said police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar.

He warned that police will still go after violators who don't wear face masks or observe physical distancing.

Classes remain suspended for the next two weeks. Barber shops and beauty salons can open next week at a third of their capacity.

The Philippines remains a Southeast Asian hot spot for the coronavirus with more than 18,000 infections and 957 deaths.