The death of a single mother in the Philippines who died after trying to get a bus home during the country’s coronavirus lockdown has led to widespread anger online, and prompted the government to look into how it treats stranded workers during the pandemic.
Michelle Silvertino, 33, was found unconscious on a footbridge along a major highway in the capital Manila on June 5.
The mother of four had tried to catch a bus to her home in Calabanga, Camarines Sur province – more than 400 kilometers southeast of Manila (250 miles) – but because of Covid-19 quarantine measures no public transport was operating, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.
Silvertino walked from Quezon City, just north of Manila, to Pasay City to the south, with hopes of catching a ride from there, CNN Philippines reported. But that proved to be futile and she became stranded on a footbridge for several days, where she was found unconscious and later declared dead at the hospital.
Her death sparked outrage in the Philippines and the hashtag #JusticeforMichelleSilvertino trended on Twitter. People across the country have joined the social media campaign calling for justice and criticizing the government for not doing enough to help stranded workers like Silvertino.
In March, the Philippines enacted strict coronavirus lockdown measures that included the suspension of mass public transportation on island of Luzon, which includes the capital region Metro Manila, and residents were ordered to stay at home.
After nearly 80 days, those restrictions in the capital started to ease on June 1 and public transportation was allowed to partially resume, according to CNN Philippines. However, buses traveling between provinces are still prohibited.
Silvertino’s plight is shared by many Filipino workers who became stranded during the lockdown as they were unable to travel home due to the restrictions.
CNN Philippines reported that hundreds of stranded passengers were camped out under an expressway near Manila’s international airport on Thursday after their flights were canceled.
“We’re like beggars here. All we want is to go home to our families,” one passenger told the news agency.
The outcry over Silvertino’s death, however, reached the presidential palace and on Thursday the government announced it would help stranded workers in the country return home.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement that Silvertino’s situation would not be repeated and the social welfare and transportation departments will assist those gathered at bus stops and airports.
“No one wanted this to happen, but we will now take steps to make sure what happened to Michelle won’t happen again. We have a new policy to help all those stranded in airports and bus terminals,” Roque said.
The statement added that stranded workers will undergo rapid testing for Covid-19 before being found transportation.