METRO MANILA malls are requiring the use of face masks as they reopen today after being shut for two months due to the strict lockdown enforced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In separate statements on Friday, Megaworld Corp. and Robinsons Malls confirmed that they are reopening their malls starting May 16. It is unclear when SM Supermalls will be restarting operations although it has issued guidelines to do so safely.

Meanwhile, Ayala Land has said that its Metro Manila malls will open on May 18, but gave no details as of press time.

After two months of the stricter enhanced community quarantine, Metro Manila has been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine, and the malls are now allowed to partially reopen. Only non-leisure stores allowed to do business, while restaurants may operate for take out and delivery only, with no in-house dining allowed.

Stores that may operate include those that sell hardware, clothing and accessories, books and office supplies, baby care supplies, pet supplies, information technology and electronic equipment, toys, flowers, jewellery, novelties, antiques, and perfume. Mall branches of government frontline services can also open

Barbershops and salons, as well as gyms, cinemas, karaoke bars, playrooms, travel agencies, and personal care services like massage parlors may not reopen.

The mall operators confirmed that free WiFi connection will be suspended, and air conditioning will be limited as per orders. These measures are meant to deter people from loitering in the malls.

Megaworld said its safety measures include social distancing, mandatory thermal checks, compulsory wearing of face masks, and cashless transactions. Only customers between the ages of 21 and 59 will be allowed to enter, and they must present their IDs at the entrance.

“Contactless purchases including the use of mobile or cashless transactions at select stores, and the establishment of designated pick-up counters and drive-through stations for online takeout orders and deliveries are also among the new additional measures to be implemented to protect and give shoppers more options,” Megaworld said.

Robinsons said that it is applying a “no face mask, no entry” policy and will be checking customers’ temperature. Customers will also be required to follow three-step gaps between other customers in escalators, while elevators will have marked areas for standing.

SM is requesting that customers limit their activities to buying essentials and accessing non-leisure services.

“Hallways and common areas will have floor directional arrows to encourage one-way customer traffic to help people avoid coming into close contact with others. Safety Protocol Officers have been deployed to reinforce Safe Malling measures,” it said in a statement.

SM has conducted antibody rapid testing for all employees, including janitors and security guards, and provided them with personal protective equipment.

The mall operators will be conducting sanitizing measures, with SM and Robinsons placing antiseptic dispensers and disinfectant foot mats at the entrances of their facilities. Megaworld has placed disinfection chambers at its mall entrances.

“We want to make sure that anyone visiting and working in our malls would feel safe and well taken care of,” Robinsons Malls Senior Vice-President and General Manager Arlene Magtibay said. — Jenina P. Ibañez