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Gyms again allowed under GCQ areas starting September 1

The Philippine government is once again allowing gyms, internet cafes, drive-in cinemas, personal grooming services, pet grooming services, and tutorial centers to reopen in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) starting Tuesday, September 1.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez confirmed this in a message to Rappler on Monday, August 31, the same day existing GCQ restrictions in Metro Manila and 14 other areas are set to expire. 

"Yes. Those under GCQ," the trade chief told Rappler. 

Lopez said that for gyms and internet cafes, the trade department will craft specific guidelines with local governments in Metro Manila to determine the extent of operations to be allowed as well as specific health requirements that should be in place.

He also clarified that only gyms for non-contact sports will be allowed to reopen. Gyms for contact sports like boxing, karate, basketball, and judo will still not be allowed to operate as these involve having people in close proximity or contact with one another, which can fuel the spread of the coronavirus.

Lopez added that drive-in cinemas, personal and pet grooming services, as well as testing, tutorial, and review centers will be allowed to operate again, too.

Ready to operate?

The reopening of businesses like gyms and internet cafes has been a contentious point of discussion as experts pointed out that these are places with a high risk of transmission.

Several experts and studies have warned of the danger of spreading SARS-CoV-2 droplets in confined spaces like gyms, especially since exercise causes heavy breathing. In areas with poor ventilation like internet cafes, studies have found droplets carrying the virus to linger longer as limited air flow hinders their dispersal.

Government officials earlier let gyms and other types of establishments reopen under GCQ starting August 1. This was met with opposition from doctors who appealed for a review of the measure as cases surged.

The affected businesses, at the time, were able to reopen for only 3 days – August 1 to 3 – as Metro Manila and nearby areas were again placed under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine from August 4 to 18.

The coronavirus task force then backtracked on its decision to allow the reopening of gyms and other establishments under GCQ, so these businesses stayed closed under the "strict" GCQ from August 19 to 31.

Gyms and other establishments are only currently allowed to operate under modified GCQ, the loosest form of community quarantine. – with a report from Ralf Rivas/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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