Lockdown brings uncertainty to Pinoys in France and Belgium


Posted at Mar 18 2020 03:47 PM | Updated as of Mar 18 2020 05:30 PM

A lockdown was imposed in Belgium from March 18 until April 5. Raquel Bernal-Crisostomo, ABS-CBN News

Filipinos in France and Belgium are feeling the impact of stricter measures imposed by their respective host countries in a bid to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In France, a partial lockdown was imposed by President Emmanuel Macron, restricting travel to what is essential for 15 days beginning March 17. 

Going out is only allowed for trips between house and workplace; first-necessity shopping; trips for health reasons; trips for family reasons (aid vulnerable people and take care of children); short trips near your house, related to personal exercise, and to walk the dog.

For each trip, a travel certificate “Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire” or “Attestation de déplacement professionel” needs to be filled in and justified. It can be downloaded at https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/L-actu-du-Ministere/Attestation-de-deplacement-derogatoire-et-justificatif-de-deplacement-professionnel or hand written. 

About 100,000 police officers and gendarmes have been deployed to check and control those who travel. A fine of 38€-135€ (around P2,163 to P7,684) will be imposed against violators.

Marjobelle Llamson, a nanny working for a family in Paris, has been asked by her employer to go with them to Normandy, a region in Northern France, a day before Macron’s partial lockdown announcement. 

“They got an information about the lockdown before it was announced by the president. At first, I was hesitant to join them in the countryside, but then I decided to for two things: first, bigger accommodation or better isolation against the virus compare to my small apartment in Paris; and second, I will have my full salary, plus extra pay," Llamson said, who arrived in Normandy on Monday at 10 a.m.

There are Filipinos who work as part-timers, a no work-no pay job, and this serious measure against the spread of COVID-19 affects them.

But for Analie Acee Catahan, her health is far more important than the salary she will get by working during the lockdown. 

“Sa ganito pong sitwasyon ay hindi ko kayang isakripisyo ang aking kalusugan para kumita ng pera. Mas iniisip ko po ay ang aking kaligtasan," Catahan said.

(In this situation, I cannot sacrifice my health over the opportunity to earn. I think more about my safety.)

Catahan added her family back home understands if she can't send them money for now.

"Paano ang pambili ng pagkain ko kung pagkatapos nang 15-araw, mag-extend ang lockdown, umabot nang isang buwan or maging mas worst, umabot ng ilang buwan? Hindi naman ako mapapadalhan ng aking pamilya ng panggastos ko dito kaya kailangan din nila talagang maintindihan ang sitwasyon ko dito ngayon," Catahan explained.

(How can I sustain my food needs if, after 15 days, the lockdown will be extended and last for a month or worst, for many months? My family cannot send me money for my needs here. So, they must also understand my situation here now.)

In Belgium, a lockdown was also imposed in the entire country from March 18 until April 5. However, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes made it clear that the so called “far-reaching measures” do not mean a total lockdown, but will definitely have an impact on people’s social life.

People are urged to stay home. They will only be allowed to go out during emergency cases or if they have to go to the groceries, supermarkets, pharmacies, bank, gasoline stations or if they need to consult a doctor. 

All gatherings, regardless of the size, are prohibited, except if it involves only families.

Work from home scheme or teleworking should become the norm. Citizens are allowed to go to work if home office or working from home is not possible.

All shops will be closed except supermarkets, food stores, pharmacies, news agents, and banks.

Access to supermarkets is limited to 1 shopper for every 10 square meters and should only shop or stay inside for a duration of no more than 30 minutes.

Creches are open as usual. Night shops should be closed by 10 p.m. and should maintain the required distancing. Coiffures can operate provided they maintain one client at a time.

Indoor and outdoor play areas for children will also be closed. Outdoor activities such as jogging and walking are allowed but one should maintain at least 1.5 meter distance from other people, except if the accompanying person is a family member who lives under the same roof.

The Belgian police is expected to ensure that these measures are strictly followed.

These enhanced measures worry workers including Pinoys.

“Ang mga bayarin ko sa aking apartment, mga bill na darating, at ang isa pa ay ang pagpapadala sa aking pamilya sa Pilipinas. Dahil dito ay labis akong nag-iisip. So kung isang buwan na walang trabaho, 'di ko alam kung paano mabubuhay dito sa Belgium," said Pinay Dess Fidel.

(My rental, the upcoming bills, and my regular remittance for my family in the Philippines - these bother me. If there is no work for a month, I don't know how I will survive here in Belgium.) 


Meanwhile, the European Union is expected to ratify the temporary closure of the bloc’s external borders.

This would mean that all non-essential travels to EU Schengen zone are banned. The United Kingdom and Ireland are also expected to join the bloc in imposing the temporary control measure.

Exempted from the ban are the returning EU citizens and their families, doctors, nurses, health workers, and researchers.

The measure does not apply to those who transport goods ensuring that there will be enough food supplies and medicines.

Currently, the following countries have introduced temporary border controls; Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Estonia, Switzerland, and Norway.

Returning EU citizens who are sick should not be denied of entry but should be given access to healthcare. They may however be required for a period of self-isolation or self-quarantine, the same requirements imposed on their own residents. - - With reports from Mary Anne Alcantara-Rivera and Raquel Bernal-Crisostomo