MALLS and other commercial centers are now allowed to operate as Cebu City has started to ease a bit its restrictions under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status.
The operations of malls and other shopping centers are limited to non-leisure aspects of their businesses.
Mayor Edgardo Labella issued Executive Order (EO) 84 on Thursday, July 16, 2020, setting the guidelines that must be followed during Cebu City's MECQ period, and his order took effect on the same day.
The city's MECQ status started on July 16 and it will end on July 31, 2020.
Aside from malls, allowed to operate under EO 84 are restaurants, but no dine-in is allowed. Also allowed are shops that sell hardware, clothes and accessories, books, school and office supplies and infant care needs.
Stores involved in trading information, technology and communications equipment, flower, jewelry, perfume, novelty item and toys are permitted to operate.
However, these businesses must only operate at 50 percent of their workforce.
Individuals aged below 21 years old and those 60 years old and above, as well as those with immunodeficiency, comorbidities and pregnant women cannot enter malls and shopping centers, except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in establishments located there.
Other establishments and individuals allowed to operate with only 50 percent operating capacity are manufacturing industries.
Under MECQ, the businesses that are still prohibited to operate are amusement and entertainment centers, gaming and fitness hubs and other sports facilities. Libraries, museums, cultural centers, tourism industries and personal care services are also not permitted to operate.
No hotels or similar establishments in Cebu City are allowed to operate except those accommodating guests who have existing booking accommodation as of May 1, those who have existing long-term bookings, distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals, repatriated OFWs undergoing quarantine protocols, non-OFWs required to undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine, and those accommodating health workers and other employees from establishments allowed to operate.
Mass gatherings are still prohibited, except for government services and authorized humanitarian activities. Religious gatherings are limited to not more than five persons.
All forms of public transportation are still suspended except for commissioned shuttle services for employees of permitted establishments, and the point-to-point transport services provided by the government.
The City encouraged the use of bicycles and other non-motorized transportation.
Supermarkets, public and private wet markets, grocery stores, agri-fishery supplies stores, veterinary supply stores, pharmacies, drug stores and other retail establishments engaged in selling essential goods are encouraged to extend their store hours to a maximum of 12 hours.
As some businesses are allowed to operate amid the MECQ status, Cebu business leaders have pushed for the testing of returning workers. They also urged businesses to implement strict safety protocols.
"Since we are on MECQ now, businesses are more concerned about the health of their returning workers," Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president (CCCI) Felix Taguiam said.
He suggested to let workers undergo prevalence testing or polymerase chain reaction testing to ensure they are safe to work.
"We can not afford to be on lockdown forever," Taguiam said. "We really have to learn to co-exist with the virus, and we will have to keep on reminding about the basic safety protocols."
In other local government units (LGUs), the mayors of Talisay City, Minglanilla and Consolacion said they will strictly implement quarantine protocols. The three LGUs in Cebu Province remain on general community quarantine (GCQ) status.
Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. said he has no problem with the decision of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. He said he did not ask the IATF to downgrade the city's quarantine status.
Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 will maintain high security in quarantine checkpoints and continue to strictly enforce health protocols.
PRO 7 Director Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro said the Special Action Force troopers and the other personnel from other regions will continue their task of implementing quarantine rules in Cebu City. (with reports from JOB, ANV, JKV & AYB / CBQ)