Ordered to stay home, Manila’s children face risks beyond COVID

To a teenage girl who had already spent five-straight months indoors before, what is another two weeks of being cooped up?

Besides quick walks to the neighbourhood store to buy food, Britney Maturan, 16, stayed at home from mid-March to August last year, when the Philippines enforced one of the world’s longest lockdowns in its capital region, Metro Manila, to stave off the COVID-19 pandemic.

So when the government on Wednesday issued another order for everyone 18 years old or younger and 65 years old or older to stay indoors for at least two weeks, Maturan was resigned.

“It’s OK,” she told Al Jazeera. “You get used to it anyway.”

Metro Manila is battling a new wave of COVID-19 .

On Friday, the health department reported 7,103 new cases in the Philippines, the highest since the pandemic started last year.Even Maturan sees the point in keeping youngsters like herself indoors.

 

“It’s just fair because, at our age, we’re more curious about everything and we love to explore, so we end up doing what we’re not supposed to,” she said.

Sweltering, cramped houses

But as Manila enjoys the last breezes of the cool northeast monsoon, another tropical summer is inching nearer. Poor Filipinos typically escape the heat from their tin roofs and windowless parlours by stepping outdoors and promenading in the streets.

Maturan lives with her mother and two little sisters in a meagre two-storey apartment in Pasig, one of the 16 cities that comprise the Manila metropolis. Her neighbourhood of Maybunga is one of the city’s more congested areas – houses have no yards, front doors open straight into narrow alleys and homes are so close to each other that it is even possible to listen to loud conversations next door.

Enforcing stay-at-home orders in communities like Maybunga presents a challenge to local governments. Police or village officers roam the alleys ordering loiterers to move indoors and people obey them. But the moment the authorities are out of sight, they emerge from their homes and resume their activities outdoors.

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