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Metro Manila movie houses to reopen in March

/ 04:58 AM February 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The reopening of movie houses in Metro Manila has been moved to March due to the mayors’ apprehension that it may result in greater spread of the coronavirus in the metropolis.

After the mayors complained that they had not been consulted before the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed the reopening of movie theaters, Malacañang said on Monday consultations would be conducted and guidelines laid down.

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But other local governments that have already given guidelines for movie theaters may proceed with the reopening, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque said he had spoken with Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) officials and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez about the mayors’ concern.

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March 1 reopening

“The reopening of movie houses, if it would push through, would be on March 1. Consultations have to be continued and local governments have to lay down guidelines before the theaters could reopen,” he said in a press briefing.

He said the Metro Manila mayors were not squabbling with the task force over the matter.

“We are in agreement about the need to gradually reopen the economy because more people now are going hungry than getting infected with or dying of COVID. But the [task force] and the mayors are also in agreement that minimum health standards should not be relaxed,” he said.

The task force earlier allowed movie houses, video game arcades, theme parks, natural parks, historical landmarks, driving schools, libraries, museums and cultural centers to reopen in general community quarantine areas beginning Feb. 15.

The decision was meant to allow more people to return to work as these establishments had been closed since last year.

But Metro Manila mayors decided not to reopen the movie houses for the meantime because health experts had advised them that the coronavirus spread faster in closed spaces. The Metro Manila Council (MMC) said on Sunday that the mayors would appeal the task force’s decision.

Malacañang respects the mayors’ decision, Roque said, adding that the task force has allowed local governments to lay down guidelines for the reopening of movie theaters.

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Meeting with task force

MMDA chief Benhur Abalos told a news conference on Monday that the mayors were apprehensive about reopening movie houses because the UK variant of the coronavirus, which scientists say is 75 percent more contagious than the original COVID-19 agent, may spread in the metropolis (See related story on this page).

“[W]ho will not be nervous when they enter [movie theaters] now, especially if they have their children with them?” Abalos asked. “The owners of the movie houses themselves are not sure whether they would be able to earn enough when these are reopened.”

Abalos said the mayors would meet on Monday night for a discussion of the matter then meet with the task force on Wednesday.

For the reopening of other establishments, Abalos said the MMC would emphasize temperature checks, physical distancing, wearing of masks and face shields and other health standards set by the government.

With a report from Meg Adonis

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