Viral videos, pics of MECQ vIolations in malls fake news

TRADE and Industry (DTI) Sec. Ramon Lopez on Monday refuted reports of wanton violation of quarantine protocols in shopping malls, branding the viral images and videos in the newly-reopened malls as fake news.

During Monday’s morning virtual hearing by the New Normal Cluster of the House Defeat COVID-19 Committee's (DCC), Ramos told the sub-committee led by Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda that malls were only 20 percent filled.

"These are actual pictures...we made an inspection yesterday (Sunday) just for me to see and verify the various fake news coming out that there are so many people violating social distancing during the opening of malls," Lopez told the virtual hearing via Zoom application where he served as resource person for House Bill (HB) No. 6623 or the proposed “New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020.”

"So we checked personally some malls in the metropolis that were usually full on Sundays. Dito we can see na hindi naman ganun kadami ang tao,” Lopez stressed after malls in Metro Manila were allowed to reopen when the strict Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was downgraded to a Modified ECQ (MECQ).

"While we were interviewing, doing a quick survey, the crowd is only about 20 percent of what a typical Sunday afternoon [is], pre-COVID-19 (coronavirus disease-19)," Lopez pointed out.

Lopez also told the virtual hearing that also only 20 percent of the total mall stores have opened. "Ang talagang open were the supermarkets and drug stores. Because even the food areas were only for take out and delivery. So konting-konti po ang tao," Lopez explained.

He said the rule is only one person is permitted to stay in a space of two square meters at any given time at a store or shop inside the mall.

The DTI secretary said mall goers are also "told to proceed with that errands and buy what they need to buy,” adding that marshals are assigned to remind people to observe physical distancing and foot traffic rules through markers or partitions placed in the malls.

"So those are just examples of what we saw. Again there is no truth to all the fake news trying to discredit what the government has just decided [to slowly allow businesses to reopen] even partially [by] 50 percent, many of the stalls inside the malls," said Lopez. On Sunday, Philippine National Police spokesman, Brigadier General Bernard M. Banac said the wanton violation of quarantine protocols in shopping malls has prompted the Joint Task Force COVID Shield to warn that it will recommend the closure of shopping malls and other establishments who will fail to address threats of a second wave of the deadly disease.

Banac said police observed that  “many shoppers enjoyed the day at the mall and overstayed inside supermarkets and shops such that by late afternoon, the accumulated number of people inside malls seemed to look like over-crowding.”

The New Normal Cluster chaired by Legarda has been deliberating HB No. 6623 or the “New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020.”

The principal authors are Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speakers Paolo Duterte and Legarda; and Representatives Eric Yap of ACT-CIS party-list, Michael Defensor of Anakalusugan party-list, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, and 190 other lawmakers.

The measure provides for a “whole-of-society” approach to the “new normal” way of life—anchored on strict mandatory safety and social or physical distancing protocols—once containment measures are lifted and economic and social activities are somewhat back in Metro Manila and the rest of the country.

The bill aims to prepare and educate Filipinos for life after the lifting of the quarantine or containment restrictions that were imposed separately by the national government and local government units (LGUs) in March, through new norms of social or physical distancing and safety measures in government and private offices, schools, commercial establishments and other public spaces.