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Government sets tone for ‘new normal’

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House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday led the filing of a bill providing a “whole-of-society” approach to the “new normal” way of life anchored on strict mandatory safety and physical distancing protocols that will still remain in place once quarantine measures are lifted.

Government sets tone for ‘new normal’
SPECIAL DELIVERY. Members of the Philippine Coast Guard distribute relief goods to the residents of Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila who cannot leave their homes in light of the extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon and other high-risk areas. Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte hinted that the government would relax the lockdown by May 15 in a televised address Monday night. Norman Cruz

The proposed New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020 aims to prepare and educate Filipinos for life after the lifting of the restrictions imposed by the national government and local governments to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) through new norms of social or physical distancing and safety measures in government and private offices, schools, commercial establishments, and other public spaces.

Cayetano, together with House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Paolo Duterte, and Loren Legarda; and Representatives Eric Yap, Michael Defensor, and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado authored House Bill 6623.

Romualdez, meanwhile, warned of social upheaval as an offshoot of the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, as the Enhanced Community Quarantine has thrown millions of workers out of work and kept almost the whole population indoors, causing problems in basic survival.

READ: Duterte teases ‘modified quarantine’ after May 15

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“We know that when people are hungry, frustrated and angry, the potential for social unrest, violence, and confusion increases. This threat of social upheaval would greatly undermine our ability to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” Romualdez said before the meeting of the Peace and Order Cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee.

“We cannot allow hunger, frustration, and hopelessness to reign among our people. This unprecedented global health emergency must be our sole motivation to employ measures that will ensure the safety, security and protection of our citizens, Romualdez added.

He said it was the responsibility of lawmakers to voice out lingering concerns of their constituents in ECQ and general community quarantine districts.

Under HB 6623, social distancing and other protocols will remain in place for three years.

These include the mandatory wearing of masks, the availability of hand washing or sanitizing stations in public areas, temperature checks and physical distancing of at least one meter, but preferable two meters, in all public spaces.

In public transportation, physical distancing also applies during queueing for tickets and in the interiors of vehicles. Contactless payment mechanisms will be implemented, and passengers will be required to wash their hands or sanitize before boarding public utility vehicles.

The operation of motorcycle taxis will remain suspended to prevent the spread of the virus through the use of common helmets and close contact between drivers and their passengers.

READ: Modified lockdown pushed

For schools and other learning institutions, on-site classes, sports and other extracurricular activities will remain suspended subject to consultation with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.

Online learning platforms will, in the meantime, be the primary mode of learning for students in all public and private schools.

Once on-site classes gradually resume, the number of classes should be reduced and staggered class days should be implemented to enable students and teachers to comply with physical distancing protocols and other safety measures.

The bill also provides that restaurants and other foodservice places may resume operations under a “new normal,” but initially only for takeout and delivery.

Buffets and salad bars would be prohibited once dine-in services are gradually introduced, a two-meter distancing between diners should be strictly followed, and disposable or non-shareable menu booklets and cutlery should be used as much as possible.

In banks, supermarkets, malls, and most commercial spaces, the entry of people will be limited at any given time, and online transactions and shopping services as well as cashless and contactless payments should be encouraged.

Salons, parlors, and spas, once allowed to reopen, should strictly observe frequent hand washing, disinfecting, and cleaning practices, including the sanitizing of scissors and other tools.

Applicable safety and distancing measures should also be applied in construction sites, industrial workplaces, offices, call centers, and other public spaces.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced he will lift the Enhanced Community Quarantine but will maintain the general community quarantine in Luzon after the lockdown expires on May 15 to allow a partial reopening of the economy.

In a televised address, President Duterte said some areas would be ready to transition from the ECQ to a GCQ, and some sectors, such as construction, would be allowed to reopen.

Mass transport, he said, could also be reopened but at a minimal level, while workers in some industries would be able to go back to work.

Palace Spokesman Harry Roque said the country is preparing a partial reopening of its economy next month as it eases lockdown guidelines in some areas.

While most businesses will be allowed to resume, there are still services that will remain barred under the general community quarantine or GCQ.

READ: Virus cases top three million as nations plan lockdown exit

Roque said GCQ in low-risk areas may be lifted after May 15 should no deterioration in their risk level occur, according to the task force.

For GCQ areas, public transportation would resume at reduced capacity, some workers would be allowed to work, and some establishments would partially open but subject to minimum health standards, Roque said.

However, areas with a high risk of COVID-19 transmissions such as Metro Manila and Central Luzon except for Aurora, CALABARZON; Pangasinan; Benguet; Baguio City: Iloilo province; Cebu province; Cebu City and Davao City would remain under the ECQ until May 15.

The following businesses and services will not be allowed to resume both in areas under the ECQ and those under the GCQ:

1. Gyms, fitness studios, and sports facilities

2. Entertainment-related mass gatherings such as theaters, cinemas, large concerts, festivals, carnivals, conventions, shows, pubs, and bars.

3. Business-related mass gatherings such as trade shows, conferences, conventions, workshops, and retreats

4. Politically-related mass gatherings such as election rallies, polling centers, parades, speeches,

5. Sports-related mass gatherings such as training, games, tournaments, championships

6. Religious mass gatherings

7. Going to libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural activities

8. Gambling and betting activities

9. Activities of travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services

10. Activities of membership organizations

The sectors allowed in both ECQ and GCQ are:

• Agriculture; Industry (e.g. manufacturing and processing plants and the entire value chain);

• Hospitals and medical clinics;

• Dental and EENT clinics (with strict health standards);

• Retail establishments (e.g. groceries, supermarkets, convenience stores);

• Food preparation and water refilling stations;

• Logistics service providers (e.g. cargo handling, warehousing, trucking);

• Delivery services;

• Banks and capital markets;

• Power, energy, water, IT, and telecommunications supplies and facilities;

• Electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply;

• Postal and courier activities;

• Water collection;

•  Waste collection;

• Sewerage (except emptying of septic tanks);

• Veterinary activities;

• Repair and installation of machinery and equipment;

• Repair of computers and personal and household goods;

• Service to buildings and landscape activities (except landscape care);

• Employment activities;

• Security and investigation activities;

• Programming and broadcasting activities;

• Rental leasing activities (except for entertainment/mass gathering purposes);

• Accommodation (used as quarantine facilities for OFWs and workers of essential industries);

•  Services to buildings and landscape activities;

• Extraction of crude petroleum and natural gas;

• Gasoline stations;

• Laundry shops (including self-service);

• Funeral services;

• Export companies (with temporary accommodation and shuttle services; work from home);

• Business process outsourcing companies (with temporary accommodation and shuttle services; WFH); and

• Mining and quarrying

Sectors allowed during GCQ only:

• Other manufacturing activities (e.g. beverages, cement and steel, electrical machinery);

• Malls and commercial centers (e.g. hardware stores, clothing and accessories, and non-leisure stores);

• Barbershops, salon, spas, and other personal care industries (with strict health standards);

•  Wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles;

•  Construction and Build, Build, Build;

•  Forestry and logging;

•  Publishing activities;

•  Motion picture, video, and television program production, sound recording, and music publishing activities;

•  Advertising and market research;

• Real estate activities (except real estate buying and selling);

•  Office administrative, office support, and other business activities;

•  Legal and accounting;

•  Insurance, reinsurance, and pension funding, except compulsory social security;

• Architecture and engineering activities, technical testing and analysis;

•  Scientific and research development;

• Other professional, scientific, and technical activities;

• Social work activities without accommodation; and

• Government office-frontline offices

Roque said the IATF approved Resolution 29 revising the list of areas that will remain under ECQ from May 1 to 15.

Among the areas are the National Capital Region, Central Luzon except Aurora province, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Baguio City, Iloilo province, Cebu province, Cebu City, and Davao City, which are considered “high-risk areas.”

High- and moderate-risk areas are still subject to further evaluation, he added.

On the last day of the ECQ on May 15, Roque said the IATF would decide whether more areas may be placed under GCQ.

In his TV address, the President said the country could soon shift to a “modified quarantine” mode and thanked Filipinos for heeding the measures enforced during the Luzon-wide lockdown.

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