THE government may hire jobless jeepney drivers as coronavirus contact tracers, the presidential palace said on Wednesday.

“There’s a suggestion that they be employed as contact tracers because we do need about 120,000 of them and there’s only about 30,000 employed so far,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

Jeepneys and buses remain banned even if much of the country has shifted to a relaxed lockdown.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.

He extended the lockdown for the island twice and thrice for Manila, the capital and nearby cities.

The government has been seeking out people who can work as contact tracers. The Health department earlier said it was 94,000 short of contact tracers.

Meanwhile, the payment of residential rent will be deferred for all, regardless of one’s work status, according to the Trade department.

The agency’s guidelines on rent payment issued on June 2 will be changed to reflect this policy, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a mobile phone message on Wednesday.

The rules initially limited the grace period for people who did not have work during the lockdown.

The new guidelines would also clarify that the grace period continues to apply to all micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises that ceased operations or were not allowed to operate during the lockdown, he said.

Commercial lessees will start their 30-day grace period from the date their business was allowed to operate, whether or not the business has resumed operations.

Rent owed by businesses that are not yet allowed to operate is deferred by 30 days after the lockdown is lifted or after the date they are allowed to resume operations, whichever comes first. — Gillian M. Cortez and Jenina P. Ibañez