LOOK: Lack of physical distancing among locally stranded individuals at crowded Rizal Memorial

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 25) — Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila is packed with locally stranded individuals waiting for government-provided rides back to their home provinces on Saturday.

While most of them wear face masks, they obviously are not keeping a safe distance from each other as shown in these pictures.

Health officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of physical distancing and other safety measures to avert any coronavirus infection. The easing of movement restrictions in recent weeks is feared to cause the coronavirus taking a toll on the people's health and the economy.

Mass gatherings could allow the virus to spread and make it hard to trace who may have been exposed in case someone who is infected with COVID-19 is present, health officials have warned.

Hatid Tulong Program head Joseph Encabo appealed for understanding after photos of locally stranded individuals at the crowded Rizal Memorial went viral.

“Noong mga nakaraang araw, lahat ng mga taong 'yun ay nasa kalsada … Kailangan na po naming magdesisyon upang mabigyan ng maayos na shelter ang kababayan nating LSIs,” Encabo said in a briefing.

[Translation: In the past few days, all these people were on the streets…We need to decide so that we can give proper shelter to the LSIs.]

“Kung nag-violate man po kami sa issue ng social distancing ay kailangan rin natin ipakita ang simpatya, pag-unawa at pag-aruga sa ating mga kababayan,” he added.

[Translation: We may have violated social distancing issues but we also need to show sympathy, understanding and concern to our fellow countrymen.]

The government is set to transport home a total of 8,408 locally stranded individuals on July 25 and July 26, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Friday.

Encabo said separately that those bound for Mindanao will leave on Saturday while others heading to the Visayas will depart on Sunday.

Encabo said a total of 123,000 have already benefited from the Hatid Tulong program. Authorities are still targeting to assist the homecoming of around 8,000 to 10,000 more who remain stranded in Metro Manila, he added.