Mall management warned: Enforce physical distancing or face closure, charges
Members of the quarantine task force are seen questioning a mall employee as part of their inspection in the wake of the reopening of some malls in areas under general community quarantine.
Release/JTF CV Shield
Mall management warned: Enforce physical distancing or face closure, charges
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - May 17, 2020 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — The quarantine enforcement arm of the government's COVID-19 task force warned the public that they would oversee the closure of malls if social distancing and quarantine rules continue to be broken amid the easing of the enhanced community quarantine. 

Reports flooded social media over the weekend of congested highways and crowded malls on the very first day of their re-opening as many flocked to public spaces. 

Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon warned that the task force would facilitate the closure of malls that failed to ensure health measures are followed, along with slapping them with charges. 

“As per instruction of [Interior Secretary Eduardo Año], we will not only facilitate the closure of these malls but will also initiate the filing of appropriate charges against the management,” said Eleazar.

Eleazar also said that all police commanders were already instructed to regularly monitor the movement of people inside the malls.

“These commanders were instructed to warn the management of these malls and make sure that the warning be personally relayed to the mall management and other similar establishments,” he added.

RELATED: Malls allowed to partially open

In his statement, the JTF CV Shield commander reminded the public of basic guidelines when visiting public places, including: 

  • Mall security managers are required to compute the amount of space common areas have to inform their decision on the maximum people allowed inside.
  • One person for every two square meters of the common areas of the mall 
  • Shop owners should also enforce social distancing among customers
  • Security guards and mall employees should be on patrol inside the mall to "observe and remind people of the rules on social distancing and wearing of face masks"
  • Those unable to be accommodated once a mall reaches its maximum capacity will have to queue up outside the mall and wait for their turn once a patron exits the mall
  • Physical distancing should be observed in the waiting area outside the mall

“Other police commanders should also initiate meetings with the mall management to remind them of the protocol and warn them of the consequences if they would fail to observe the protocols,” Eleazar said.

Though the general admitted that things were "generally peaceful," he also encouraged the public to document violations of quarantine rules. 

The easing of quarantine restrictions comes as the government continues to work to eliminate a backlog on COVID-19 testing, with Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the national policy on coronavirus disease, saying last week that the backlog of around 7,000 tests should be gone within two weeks.

The Department of Finance is also pushing for the mass hiring of "contact tracers" that would boost the country's capability monitor contacts of new COVID-19 cases and provide jobs for those affected by the quarantine.

Sen. Nancy Binay, in a statement on Sunday, said it seems government is "not even prepared, or even near in realizing the COVID T3 strategy which is supposed to be already in a satisfactory operational level by this time."

T3 refers to "Test, Trace and Treat", a strategy that Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says gave countries that adopted it "an early edge" against the novel coronavirus disease.

"So, if we're talking about a 'second wave' (of infections), we all know that it's not a question of if, but when. And if we go by the surge of people [on Saturday], well, don't expect just a second wave—prepare for a tsunami!" she said in English and Filipino.

'Total lockdown' possible

In an interview with CNN Philippines earlier Sunday morning, Health Undersecretary Rosette Vergeire warned that another 'total lockdown' is an option if the number of COVID-19 cases increases amid the modified ECQ.

"In our assigned guidelines, it is important to remember that we are all still under community quarantine. All preventive measures need to be taken to prevent a new surge of cases as our system may be compromised and overwhelmed," she said. 

"We are expecting that mall operators and LGUs enforce minimum health standards."

In an earlier statement, the JTF CV Shield also told the public to expect intensified police visibility outside malls in order to ensure physical distancing rules are observed.

READ: Newly-declared low-risk areas will continue to see quarantine checkpoints — PNP | 'Strict measures are the new normal' under General Community Quarantine

“While part of our efforts is police visibility in the said establishments, it is not our job to guard them,” said Eleazar.

“Let us work together to make sure that all the measures aimed at protecting each and every one of us are strictly observed."

JTF CV SHIELD NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
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