JAKARTA, Indonesia

Tens of thousands of people displaced from Typhoon Vongfong in Philippines are battling to follow social distance protocols in crowded evacuation centers amid the fear of COVID-19 pandemic.

Heavy rainfall caused by the typhoon in Samar Island destroyed homes and has displaced at least 141,700 people since Thursday.

“It is hard times, but we still have to wear masks and obey social-distancing rules,” said local police official Carlito Abriz as quoted by local media.

Authorities are trying to run shelters at half of their capacity, provide masks, and to keep families grouped together.

Many shelters have been converted into quarantine facilities for coronavirus patients.

“The challenge lies in the physical distancing,” said Junie Castillo, the disaster official.

The national meteorological agency said the cyclone is likely to weaken into a tropical storm as it churned out into northern regions.

According to a study by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank the frequent storms negatively affect the country’s economy by 1-3%.

In 2013 Typhoon Haiyan had swept the Philippines leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

*Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in Jakarta.

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