Number of Filipinos going hungry doubles on virus, survey shows

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Hungry and hopeless: slum life a struggle in the lengthiest of lockdowns. Mary Jane Basbas, 21, and Jomar Santos, 23, attempt to feed their child in their shanty home, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Caloocan City, Metro Manila. — REUTERS

THE number of Filipinos going hungry has doubled in the past six months and more than 90% of its residents are experiencing stress as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey released Friday.

About 4.2 million people can’t afford to eat, soaring from December, while 91% of Filipinos aged 15 or older are feeling anxious, according to a Social Weather Stations poll conducted May 4 to 10.

Anti-virus lockdown restrictions since March have devastated jobs and hurt incomes in the Philippines, with the jobless rate surging to a record 17.7% in April. The country’s economy will contract this year, the World Bank forecast. While some businesses have been allowed to restart, many curbs remain in place particularly in the greater Manila region, which is the main driver of the economy.

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to decide on Monday whether more restrictions will be loosened. Transportation is still very limited in Manila, as the government seeks to boost activity while minimizing the risk of infections spreading. Total coronavirus cases, approaching 25,000, have risen faster this month than in May.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, vice-chair of the government’s virus response task force, said it may be necessary to maintain Manila’s general community quarantine status, CNN Philippines reported Friday. Another senior member of the task force, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, lent his support to a modified form of quarantine. He said in a virtual briefing that the level of quarantine restrictions will depend on the situation in the coming days, according to the report.

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SWS surveyed 4,010 people using mobile phones and computer-assisted telephone interviews. The poll is non-commissioned. — Bloomberg

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