SOME BUSINESSES are choosing to remain closed until the end of April despite the loosening of quarantine restrictions, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

Base sa aming mga nakakausap na mga SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises), lalo na sa restaurant industry, sabi nila, marami sa kanila magsasara na lang muna hanggang matapos ang Abril (Our conversations with SMEs, especially restaurants, indicate that many of them plan to stay closed until the end of April),” he told DZBB Monday.

Under rules set by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other quarantine regulators, restaurants are allowed to run some outdoor dine-in and delivery services during the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) declared in Metro Manila and nearby regions until the end of the month. The areas were previously under the strictest form of lockdown, enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), for two weeks.

Under MECQ, several industries previously banned from operating can do so at 50% capacity, while those that were operating under ECQ are allowed to have full on-site capacity.

Pwede silang (restaurants) mag-operate sana ng take out, delivery. At under MECQ, allowed na sana ‘yung al fresco. Pero ‘yung al fresco, dun sa mga restaurant group na ‘yun, iilan lamang ‘yung merong capacity na may outdoor dine in. Karamihan sa kanila, nasa loob ng mall (Restaurants are allowed to offer take-out and delivery services, and under MECQ, al fresco dining is allowed. But not many restaurants can offer outdoor dining because many of them are in malls),” Mr. Lopez said.

Hindi rin sila maka-operate din kahit MECQ. Kaya sabi nila, magsasara na lang muna. At kawawa lang ‘yung mangagawa doon (Even under MECQ, operating is not viable and they’d rather stay closed. Their workers will be suffering)”

Mr. Lopez said he is hoping coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases decline after the strict implementation of health rules and improved contact tracing so that the areas can move back to the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

“‘Pag GCQ, dun lang sila ulit pwede mag-bukas eh, which is after April, hopefully (In GCQ conditions, which I hope will come after April, that’s when many of them can open),” he said.

The Philippines on Saturday recorded its second-highest daily tally of COVID-19 cases at 12,674.

Sectors like entertainment venues, sports centers, casinos, and personal care services are still not allowed to open under MECQ. — Jenina P. Ibañez