Metro Manila mayors are not keen to reopen cinemas despite an order from the anti-pandemic task force, citing the possibility that it would lead to a surge of COVID-19 cases in their cities, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos said yesterday.
Abalos said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo that the mayors will write a letter to the task force to request the postponement of the reopening of cinemas, which will start today.
“The majority have agreed not to do it yet, as far as cinemas are concerned. First of all, it’s enclosed. Second, there are no movies that are just 30 minutes long. They are very long and the [cinema] is airconditioned,” he said in English and Filipino.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said even mall owners in her jurisdiction are hesitant to reopen their cinemas. Quezon City has one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“For them, even if it’s allowed, many of them won’t reopen because they don’t see that it’s really going to be, play a big part in terms of economic impact,” she told the news program TV Patrol.
“If we allow it to open, for the few that will agree to open, the risk is not commensurate to the [economic] gain,” she added.
She said that aside from the B117 variant that originated from the United Kingdom, there are other variants spreading all over the Philippines. The B117 strain is reportedly more infectious and deadlier than older COVID-19 variants.
“There are several other variants that have already been identified. I would rather that let’s not do it first, given that there are additional health risks that we have to consider,” Belmonte said.
The Philippine economy was left battered by the pandemic, with the 2020 gross domestic product shrinking by as much as 9.5%, the worst since the end of World War II. However, economists said it would grow by about 7% this year once the government lifts restrictions.
Other than cinemas, the national government has allowed the reopening of the following businesses in areas covered by the general community quarantine starting today:
video and interactive-game arcades
libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers
meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions
limited social events at credited establishments of the Department of Tourism
limited tourist attractions, such as parks, theme parks, natural sites, and historical landmarks
The country has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 549, 176 recorded as of yesterday. This includes 511,743 recoveries and 11,515 deaths.
This article, Metro Manila mayors unwilling to reopen cinemas, fearful of COVID-19 surge, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.