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Palace: COVID-19 cases may surge if shoppers continue to 'defy rules'

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Palace: COVID-19 cases may surge if shoppers continue to 'defy rules'
A security guard (L) takes the temperature of a shopper (C) at the entrance of a shopping mall as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Manila on May 16, 2020.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang warned Monday cases of novel coronavirus in the country might surge after scores of people went to shopping malls in apparent violation of safety protocols as the national government began relaxing confinement measures.

The country’s health system and resources could be overstretched if the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines worsens after a two-month lockdown, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Under government guidelines for malls in areas under General Community Quarantine—no guidelines were issued for Modified Enhanced Quarantine areas—foot traffic will be monitored and safe distancing will be enforced by limiting the number of people inside the establishment to a density of not more than one person per two square meters.

Malls in GCQ areas must also observe the following safety guidelines:

  • Open entrances will also be reduced and only one companion for senior citizens, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities will be allowed.
  • Malls will also be required to ensure one-meter social distancing and to assign personnel in high density areas.  
  • The use of escalators and elevators will be governed by social distancing measures.
  • Mall administrators should ensure that people will stand on every other step if escalators and elevator access will be limited to senior citizens, persons with disabilities and pregnant women. The total passengers of the elevator should only be half of the original standard capacity.
  • Seats available for waiting should be marked or reduced and a one-way flow should be created to decongest queues and facilitate movement.
  • Police visibility will also be increased  

READ: Task force sets guidelines for malls and offices in GCQ areas

“If many of us continue to defy rules, more people will contract COVID-19. We’ll be like other countries that saw surge in cases after restrictions were relaxed and people no longer followed health standards,” Roque said in Filipino.

The Philippines recorded 12,513 COVID-19 cases as of Sunday. Of that number, 2,635 patients have recovered, while 824 have died.

Roque stressed that if the case doubling time shortens to two days, the country will run out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in a week or two.

“You will stay on the streets because we will have run out of hospital beds,” Roque also said.

He said that if COVID-19 infections balloon, the government will have to impose strict lockdown rules.

According to the Department of Health, the country has 13,457 hospital beds dedicated to COVID-19 cases, 4,964 of which are occupied. There are also 40,497 beds in community-managed facilities across the archipelago and 1,348 beds in mega quarantine facilities.

When asked if easing confinement measures was a mistake, Roque responded that there is a need to revitalize the economy paralyzed by the pandemic.

"We need to make a living that's why the economy is being opened up. That wasn't so people would go malling," he said. 

He also warned that malls that do not enforce physical distancing and other health protocols will face closure. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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