Written by: Rita Magallona
Several areas in the Philippines have downgraded from the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to the less stringent modified enhanced community quarantine (MCQ) or modified ECQ. One of the most obvious changes is that shopping malls have reopened in Metro Manila, Laguna, and Cebu City last May 16, 2020.
Other areas that have been declared as low-risk have also shifted to an even more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ). These measures are intended to revitalize the economy, which has been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent quarantine measures placed to contain its spread.
Health Precautions in Reopened Malls
Malls opened with new precautions in place to ensure the safety of shoppers, merchants, and employees. These precautions include:
- Only shops that offer essential services will be allowed to open, but at 50% capacity
- Restaurants may open but only for take-out and drive-through purchases
- Wearing of face masks, temperature checks, and use of disinfectants and disinfectant foot baths are required.
- Physical distancing will be enforced by foot traffic flow markings and queue line marks on the floor
- Only one member per household can go out, as per previous regulations
- Air conditioning temperature will be raised and public WiFi will be disabled to discourage people from loitering
Reported Social Distancing Violations
Despite these measures, many have people crowded into malls in violation of physical distancing guidelines. Viral posts on social media show photos and videos of these violations, drawing widespread alarm and criticism.
In response, the government renewed its call for physical distancing and safety. It also warned mall owners that their facilities will be closed and they will be charged with violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act if they can’t enforce health protocols.
In Cavite province, Governor Jonvic Remulla took the matter one step further, ordering all malls in the province to close temporarily because of the widespread violation of quarantine measures. Remulla reminded the people that quarantine restrictions should still be followed because the threat of COVID-19 is still very real, with 40 new cases detected since the province’s shift from ECQ to GCQ. The governor further said that the malls can reopen only after presenting plans to enforce physical distancing to the government for approval.
When you do go to the mall to shop for groceries and other essentials, please don’t forget to wear a face mask, observe social distancing, and wash your hands afterward. A safer option is to buy fresh produce and food items from mobile palengkes or community markets.
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