COVID-19

Gov’t bans dine-in in canteens, smoking areas in workplaces

Pia Ranada
Face shields and face masks are now also mandatory during meetings and inside shuttles of workers

In a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Philippine government is now prohibiting dining-in in canteens and smoking in workplaces like offices and factories.

This was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday, August 11, following a meeting the day before with President Rodrigo Duterte.

“No dine-in in canteens – only packed food and deliveries,” read his presentation on Tuesday.

In the government’s interim workplace guidelines, common eating areas are “discouraged.” If it is impossible for the company to require their workers to eat alone, the company is supposed to ensure a distance of one meter between every worker or that tables in the canteen be occupied by only one worker at a time.

Only individual smoking areas or “booths in open space” will be allowed.

The new rules were included in the health protocol for workplaces crafted jointly by the Department of Health, Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Trade and Industry.

Face masks, shields mandatory in meetings

Another new rule is that both face masks and face shields will be required in work-related meetings and inside shuttles provided by companies for transporting their workers.

The mask and shield requirement is when a worker is “confined inside a room” with another during meetings or inside the shuttles.

To ensure enforcement of these new measures, the government says companies should designate health protocol officers and form an Occupational Safety and Health Protocol Committee.

The DOLE, DTI, and local governments will conduct more visits to companies and offices to check if the guidelines are being followed.

The new measures were introduced after the coronavirus task force observed a number of health protocol violations in work settings. They partly attributed the recent rise in cases to these breaches in rules.

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The day before, the Philippines reported a record-high 6,598 new cases, bringing its total to over 136,000, the highest in Southeast Asia. Despite this rise, Roque says an extension of modified enhanced community quarantine for Metro Manila and nearby provinces is “highly unlikely.”

Metro Manila, Rizal, and Cavite are the sources of most coronavirus infections in the country, apart from Cebu. – Rappler.com

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that common eating areas were banned. This has been clarified: it is dining-in in such areas that is prohibited.

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.