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Goodbye, MECQ! Hello, GCQ!: Valenzuela City Government Offices brace for the new normal

As the entire National Capital Region (NCR) officially shifts to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) today, preparations to operate under the “New Normal” begin for all government offices and buildings of Valenzuela City.

Full operation following regular working hours finally resumes for the City Government of Valenzuela after more than two months of being under Luzon-wide lockdown.

Goodbye, MECQ! Hello, GCQ!: Valenzuela City Government Offices brace for the new normal
Strictly “one seat apart” visual cues were placed in all waiting areas. Rodrigo de Guzman/VC PIO
All prepped up

Among the major changes for the New Normal include the installation of visual cues, acrylic barrier, contactless thermal cameras, and issuance of custom face mask and lunchboxes with official City Government logo to all employees.

The city started putting visual cues and markers and tabletop acrylic barriers in various City Hall offices as early as May 18 as part of its operating protocols during the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ).

Goodbye, MECQ! Hello, GCQ!: Valenzuela City Government Offices brace for the new normal
Frontline service offices have tabletop acrylic barriers for added protection. Rodrigo de Guzman/VC PIO
The visual cues were installed to remind visitors or clients to maintain physical distancing at all times. The number of seats in waiting areas in all City Government buildings were also reduced and “one seat apart” signages were posted to further underscore the new protocols. 

Furthermore, acrylic barriers were set up to provide employees of frontline service offices an extra layer of protection while transacting with clients.

Because a temperature check is required for everyone entering the City Hall and its other buildings, the City Government procured three (3) new InfiRay DTC300 Dual-Spectrum Accurate Temperature Measurement Cameras. These state-of-the-art contactless thermal scanners (which cost Php 600K each) were installed at the entrances of the Main City Hall, the Finance Building, and the City External Services Office (CESO) or the Action Center on May 28.

Goodbye, MECQ! Hello, GCQ!: Valenzuela City Government Offices brace for the new normal
Back then, a barangay health worker (BHW) used temperature guns to take the body temperature of all clients and employees. Now with the thermal imaging scanner, their exposure is now lessened as BHWs account to 60 positive COVID-19 cases in the City. Kevin Gatchalian/VC PIO
Prior to the setting up of the temperature measurement cameras, Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) used body infrared thermometers or temperature guns to take the temperature of employees and clients entering the City Hall premises.

Valenzuela City Disaster Reduction and Risk Management Office (VCDRRMO) Head Dr. Arnaldo Antonio further explains, “Thermal imaging cameras have long been used in airports as they can read temperatures from a wider range of distance. The kind of temperature camera that we have now is very ideal as it is capable of scanning large and high-traffic areas. It prevents the build-up of people at a certain area as its face recognition feature allows for the quick, contactless movement of everyone. No long lines. They can just walk normally and there’s no need to stop and wait for their temperature reading.”

Aside from supplying temperature data, the InfiRay DTC300 also captures images of everyone who passes through it. “An alarm goes off when it detects that a person has a 38°C temperature, making it easier for us to identify employees or clients who need to be checked or isolated,” adds Dr. Antonio.

Goodbye, MECQ! Hello, GCQ!: Valenzuela City Government Offices brace for the new normal
Custom face masks in red, white and green will be worn by all City Hall employees. Kevin Gatchalian/VC PIO
He also shares, “One of the reasons behind the purchase of the contactless temperature cameras is that we want to lessen our BHWs’ exposure to possible virus carriers. We observed that when they take temperatures, they are only less than one meter away from the clients. So even if they are wearing face masks and face shields, the risk [of contracting the disease] is still there. We just want to make sure that they are protected.”

Goodbye, MECQ! Hello, GCQ!: Valenzuela City Government Offices brace for the new normal
An “eat alone” policy is implemented during lunch breaks, with a prescribed lunch box to be used by employees. Kevin Gatchalian/VC PIO
Also part of the New Normal protocols to be implemented come June 1 is the employees’ mandatory wearing of their City Government-issued custom face masks. These washable masks in white, green, and red will complete their prescribed new normal uniform. The city’s healthcare professionals, on the other hand, will be provided N95 surgical masks. The masks must be worn at all times while inside the City Hall premises.

Employees are encouraged to bring their own food and use their City-Hall provided lunch boxes to ensure proper food preparation and handling. The “eat alone” policy will be observed during lunch break, with each employee eating at his or her own desk to avoid social interaction. A staggered lunch break schedule from 12 to 1:00 p.m. will also be strictly enforced so as to avoid simultaneous breaks and to maintain physical distancing. The Canteen will be open to accommodate takeout orders only.

Other New Normal Protocols

The following New Normal Protocols shall also take effect in all Valenzuela City Government offices and buildings: 

  • Installation of alcohol or sanitizer stations near every biometric machine for the use of employees every time they log in and out of the machine and putting up more alcohol stations in places frequented by clients or where there is heavy people traffic;
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently handled/touched objects, such as computer keyboards and mice, door knobs and handles, telephone handsets, chairs, and tables at least every two hours;
  • Practice of social or physical distancing of at least one (1) meter radius between employees through the arrangement of office desks one table apart.
Ready, Get Set, GCQ!

“I don’t think anyone is 100% ready. But in terms of preparations, I think we are prepared because Mayor REX is very attentive even to the minute details. And our Chief Implementor and Safety Officer, Arch. Edison Ching Padilla is quite well-versed when it comes to safety. We will treat the first week of June as an observation period. We will assess if the policies we have set in place are enough and see if adjustments have to made with regards to the people’s habits. We know that it’s not easy to adapt to the changes,” Dr. Antonio said.   

On the onset of the GCQ, the City Government of Valenzuela still has its practices intact to consistently execute programs that are aimed to successfully test, trace and isolate COVID-19 cases.

“We will make sure that our localized targeted mass testing is continuous even during the GCQ... We test, we trace and we isolate. We can somehow manage the risk while we wait for the development of the vaccine,” Mayor Rex Gatchalian said.

“On my opinion… We are ready, but we still have to wait for additional guidelines… Sabi nga nila, iyong risk lagi namang naandyan eh’ [As they say, the risk is always there]. But what is important is how we manage it,” Mayor Rex concluded.

Topics: General Community Quarantine , “New Normal” , Valenzuela City
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