Enforce the health protocols

Enforce the health protocols

Indoor dine-in is back in restaurants, at 10 percent seating or venue capacity. Beauty salons, barbershops and nail spas, meanwhile, are limited to 30 percent capacity.

These are the new health protocols as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases extended the modified enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. From May 1, the IATF allowed the resumption of indoor dine-in and the reopening of certain personal care services in the NCR Plus, making the MECQ flexible to allow more workers to resume their livelihoods.

The relaxation of restrictions was recommended by the Department of Trade and Industry and supported by NCR mayors under the Metro Manila Council. The easing is risky, considering the continuing surge in COVID cases, fueled largely by more infectious and deadlier variants that have entered the country from all over the world. Being the endorsers of the easing of restrictions, the DTI and NCR governments should take charge of enforcing compliance with the capacity limits.

Over the weekend, the OCTA Research Group reported a decline of 18 percent in the daily case average. That may look good, but in actual numbers, the situation remains dire. In the week ending May 2, the daily average of new infections stood at 8,209. The death rate has also spiked in just the past two months as the virulent variants went on a rampage and the government tried to downplay the risks. Yesterday, 7,255 new COVID cases were registered nationwide.

With over 60 percent of Filipinos going hungry and people needing to resume their livelihoods, the government has nevertheless decided to risk more infections by easing restrictions in economic activities. As we have seen in the case of mass transportation, however, those seating capacity limits are useless unless someone enforces compliance.

Since NCR mayors backed the easing of restrictions, the local governments, starting with barangay personnel, should take charge of seeing to it that those seating and venue capacities are followed in restaurants and personal care services. They should also crack down on gyms that are operating clandestinely from private homes.

The government is now considering a shift to the more relaxed general community quarantine by May 14. But the variants are still spreading and the vaccination program is crawling along. Unless those distancing rules are strictly enforced together with the other basic protocols such as mask wearing and hand washing, there is the possibility that the NCR Plus may simply swing from GCQ back to MECQ and perhaps even ECQ.