MANILA – With the easing of quarantine restrictions in different parts of the country and reports of shoppers flocking to malls the previous week, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Sunday strongly reminded the public and mall operators in the country to strictly implement the official guidelines on mall operations.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a media forum, stressed the importance of maintaining the minimum health standards particularly in public spaces such as malls and department stores under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).
“Unang-una, ang virus po ay hindi naman nawala nung nag-Modified ECQ po tayo o nung nag-GCQ tayo. Nandiyan pa rin po siya hangga’t wala pa rin po tayong nakukuha o nade-develop na bakuna na pwedeng gamitin sa ating mga kababayan (The virus was not wiped out when we transitioned to modified ECQ or even under GCQ. The virus remains unless we acquire or develop a vaccine that our countrymen could use),” Vergeire said.
DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, on the other hand, presented the DTI guidelines dated April 30, specifying the measures that need to be established, strictly implemented, and maintained by shopping mall operators under the MECQ and the GCQ.
According to Castelo, the measures include strict monitoring of foot traffic and enforcing of physical distancing inside mall premises.
Malls are also advised to limit the number of people inside the malls or shopping centers or even in individual stores by reducing the number of available customer seats in shops, reducing open entrances, creation of one-way flows inside premises, and limiting elevator access to senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and pregnant women only who are only allowed one companion each.
Air-conditioning inside malls are also to be kept at 26 degrees centigrade and free Wi-Fi for mall-goers shall be suspended to discourage people from staying and loitering.
Marketing events and sales promos which tend to attract large crowds are also suspended.
Small, in-store sales promos may be allowed provided they do not unduly attract a large gathering of shoppers inside the premises.
Malls are directed to assign a large area as the centralized pick-up location for stores with delivery or pick-up services.
At all times, these areas should observe proper physical distancing.
“This is the new normal and when we reopen. We need to be ready to implement the protocols that the government has set for everyone’s protection,” Castelo said.
For her part, Vergeire said the government “has crafted and is enforcing guidelines, and the mall owners are complying with these protocols; so what is left is for all of us to recognize that we have our own responsibilities in this pandemic.”
Representatives from SM Supermalls and NCCC, a homegrown mall chain in Davao, were present during the forum to explain their malls’ new safety guidelines while expressing their approval with the government’s directives to ensure the safety of every mall-goer.
“We at NCCC are very supportive of whatever measures that the government will implement and we will make sure that all these guidelines will be implemented in our malls,” noted Lafayette Lim, president and chief executive officer of the NCCC Group of Companies. “We hope that each and everyone of us will really try our best to be responsible not only for ourselves but for everyone else.”
“Safety is a shared responsibility, it’s something that the private sector, the public, and the government must work together for,” Gino Borromeo, Vice President for Strategy Development of SM Supermalls, declared. “This is teamwork. The more we work together, the better we work together, the safer we will all be,” he added. (IA/DOH)