‘Fake news’: DTI belies social distancing violations in malls following shift to MECQ
MANILA, Philippines — Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Monday labeled as “fake news” the reports of shoppers flocking in malls and violating social distancing protocols just after Metro Manila transitioned to the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) amid the coronavirus pandemic.
During the House’s Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) New Normal Cluster’s online hearing, Lopez presented pictures of their inspection of several malls in Metro Manila over the weekend after reports of shoppers flocking to malls—and clearly violating social distancing rules—circulated on social media.
“We made an inspection yesterday just for me to see also and verify the various fake news that are coming out that there’s so many people na nag-violate ng social distancing (who violated social distancing) in the opening of the malls. So we checked personally some malls in the metropolis na (that are) usually on a Sunday afternoon, punung-puno ng tao (they are very crowded),” Lopez said.
“So dito (sa pictures), we can see na hindi naman ganun karami ang tao (In these pictures, we can see that there are not a lot of people),” the trade secretary said.
Lopez said that crowd in malls during their inspection only comprised 20 percent of the people who would usually visit shopping centers on “a typical Sunday afternoon pre-COVID times.”
“In fact, nakakaawa nga ang mga tindahan at mga malls kasi kaunti ang tao talaga (We pity stores and malls because there are few people),” Lopez said.
“The number of stores open actually, despite some of the stores allowed to open, only about 20% also have opened up. Ang talagang (Those that are) open would be the supermarkets and the drug stores and just a few stores,” he added.
Lopez likewise presented guidelines on the operations of malls and shopping centers in areas under general community quarantine.
Among the guidelines are as follows:
- Limit the number of people inside the mall or shopping center or individual store;
- Reduce the number of open mall entrances to better manage foot traffic;
- Senior citizens, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities obtaining essential goods are allowed only one companion;
- Ensure social distancing of people (one meter apart) at all times;
- Assign personnel to regulate foot traffic in high-density areas;
- Ensure that every customer stand on every other step of the escalator to maintain safe distancing;
- Create one-way flow, where possible, to decongest queues and facilitate movement;
- Increase police visibility, should there be a need to enforce physical distancing
“A simple formula we adopted, for any space, let’s say inside the store or inside the mall, at a maximum in any given point in time, there should only be one person per two square meters,” Lopez said.
“So if a particular store inside would be about 50 square meters of free space, about 25 [people] would be the maximum at any given point in time,” he explained.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Sunday warned that malls that have partially reopened after the MECQ would be ordered closed again if they do not strictly implement physical distancing and crowd control measures.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that if the malls would not comply to the set health protocols, the Philippine National Police (PNP) can close the malls and charge the mall owners with violation of the Bayanihan to Heal As one Act.
Earlier, the DILG tasked all local government units and the Joint Task Force COVID Shield to conduct a regular inspection of malls and to coordinate with mall management in the implementation of quarantine protocols.
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