Gov't allows bigger religious services and reopening of cinemas, arcades

Starting Monday, February 15, the government will allow increased capacity for religious services and the reopening of cinemas, arcades and other leisure businesses in areas that are still under general community quarantine (GCQ) due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Pinapayagan na sa mga GCQ ang religious services na hanggang 50% ng venue capacity. Ang umiiral po sa ngayon ay 30% lamang," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday, February 12, in a virtual press briefing aired on state-run PTV4. (50% capacity will now be allowed for religious services in areas under GCQ. The one being implemented now is only at 30%.)

Here are the other industries allowed to operate based on Roque's announcement:

  • driving schools
  • traditional cinemas
  • video and interactive game arcades
  • libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers
  • meetings, conferences, and exhibitions
  • limited social events and accredited establishments of the tourism department

Roque said the government has also allowed the opening of parks, theme parks, natural sites, and historical landmarks.

He stressed though that their reopening will be subjected to the implementing guidelines set by the Department of Health and the local governments where they are located.

"Ang muling pagbubukas nito ay subject sa implementing guidelines na magi-isyu na magsasabi ng operational capacity at oversight ng appropriate regulatory agency at mga lokal na pamahalaan kung saan ang mga negosyo at mga industrya," he said.

(The reopening of these businesses will be subjected to implementing guidelines to be issued – which will also determine the operational capacity – and oversight of the appropriate regulatory agency and local government units where the businesses are located.)

Roque added that these business would still need to strictly follow the minimum health standards set by health department.

Metro Manila, Cordillera Administrative Region, Batangas, Tacloban City, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Iligan City are still under GCQ, while the rest of the country is under the less restrictive modified GCQ, where cinemas have been open at up to 50% capacity since October 2020.

Why open?

Roque said that the decision to allow more businesses to open was due to the low attack rate – or the percentage of a population that contracts the virus in given period – and low occupancy rate of hospital beds in the country.

"In other words, wala po tayong problema pagdating sa ating (we don't have problems with our) utilization rate," he added.

As of February 9, only 31% or 8,600 of 27,769 of the hospital beds dedicated for COVID-19 have been occupied.

Roque added that the move was to further open up the economy. Some 12.7 million Filipinos remain jobless this year as the country grapples with the pandemic.

Though the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is already "plateauing," experts have said that this trend needs to maintained for at least two weeks to further control virus transmission.

Despite the recorded cases of the more infectious United Kingdom (UK) variant in the country, the Octa Research Group earlier said that the pandemic situation in the country was "manageable."

Experts earlier warned that the UK variant might increase COVID-19 cases in the Philippines by 15-fold. The country has so far recorded 25 cases of the UK variant.

The pandemic has infected over 107 million people globally. As of Thursday, February 10, the Philippines had 543,282, with 10,469 deaths and 500,335 recoveries. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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