Philippine govt allows more activities under general community quarantine

Police checkpoints will remain at borders between cities and towns even if the enhanced community quarantine is lifted and the less restrictive general community quarantine is implemented in several areas of Metro Manila after May 15. (Photo by NIÑO JESUS ORBETA / Philippine Daily Inquirer). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Jul 4, 2020, PhilStar. As part of the gradual reopening of the economy after almost four months of lockdown due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases approved on Thursday the revival of more activities, The Philippine Star reported.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday that beauty salons and barber shops can now offer pedicure and manicure services.

The IATF also approved the training of professional basketball and football teams, as requested by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Games and Amusement Board (GAB).

“The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shall issue the guidelines that would govern the gradual resumption of other services normally provided by these amendments, to the extent allowed by the minimum public health standards,” the IATF said in its resolution.

IATF Resolution No. 51 also approved the recommendation of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and DTI to allow travel agencies under Category IV to resume operations in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).

“Provided that the operation shall be limited to skeletal workforce and primarily to do administrative works such as the processing of refunds and payments to suppliers,” the IATF said.

The IATF also gave the go signal to the PSC-GAB-DOH joint administrative order to issue guidelines on health-enhancing physical activities and sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

IATF said that religious gatherings in areas under GCQ shall be allowed up to 10 percent of seating capacity, or up to 10 persons whichever is higher, after July 10.

“Provided that religious gathering shall be limited to the conduct of religious worship and/or service,” the IATF said. “Provided further, that there is no objection from the local government unit where the religious gathering may take place.”

The religious denominations should strictly observe their submitted protocols and the minimum public health standards, particularly the social distancing measures and non-pharmaceutical interventions such as obligatory wearing of face masks and immediate availability of hand hygiene necessities in the premises, the IATF added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chair of the national task force on COVID-19, said that he expects about 80 percent of areas currently under GCQ to further ease restrictions on July 16.

Lorenzana said the easing of measures would still depend on data analytics by the Department of Health (DOH) but he sees the easing to a modified GCQ in most areas two weeks from now.

Metro Manila, some provinces like Cavite, Rizal and Leyte, and some cities in Cebu province are still under GCQ.

Cebu City is still on enhanced community quarantine due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Lorenzana said the public could expect further easing of restrictions in the country under the second phase of the national action plan to open up the economy to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

He said the first phase of the action plan, which included the months-long lockdown over most of the country, was successful.

The Philippines has had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world to combat the pandemic.

Lorenzana said the government was able to prevent the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country that would have reached 75,000 cases as estimated by the World Heatlh Organization if measures were not imposed.

In a letter to the DOT dated May 11, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) had recommended that travel agencies be allowed to open voluntarily.?“We requested the endorsement to the IATF to allow travel agencies to open their offices on voluntary basis since there are a number of them who service non-leisure travel markets such as but not limited to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), ships crew movements including foreigners, returning stranded overseas Filipinos, BPO with expatriates, embassies and etc,” PTAA president Ritchie Tuano said.?Tuano’s sentiment was echoed by Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Jose Clemente III.?In May, the TCP also wrote to the DOT recommending the voluntary opening of travel agencies in GCQ areas, emphasizing that a majority of travel agencies and tour operators prefer to remain closed under GCQ.?The number of hotels and restaurants accredited by the DOT in Metro Manila increased this year as more establishments comply with health and safety protocols.

Year-to-date figures from the DOT showed that there are 336 accredited accommodation establishments in NCR, a 90 percent increase from the 177 firms accredited in 2019.

The DOT said a total of 159 establishments were accredited this year, while 187 applications remain in process.

Similarly, the DOT also saw an increase in application for the accreditation of restaurants in NCR, with a total of 133 accredited restaurants, a 70 percent increase from the 78 in 2019.

Some 55 restaurants in the metropolis have been accredited this year while 13 applications remain in process. The DOT stressed that accreditation of restaurants is not mandated by law.

The DOT said that all hotels and restaurants that would be allowed to operate in community quarantine zones would have to secure a DOT Certificate of Authority to Operate.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez led the inspection of selected hotels and restaurants in the Ortigas Center in Pasig on Wednesday to check compliance with health and safety protocols under Metro Manila’s general community quarantine guidelines.

Christina Mendez, Romina Cabrera, Catherine Talavera

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