POLICE yesterday asked malls to bar people without a quarantine pass to prevent overcrowding amid a novel coronavirus pandemic.

Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, deputy chief for operations of the Philippine National Police, made the recommendation during a meeting with mall security managers at Camp Crame in Quezon City yesterday.

Allowing only customers with quarantine passes would ensure physical distancing and other safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, Mr. Eleazar told reporters.

Security guards must also inspect vehicles about to enter the malls’ parking areas and check whether the drivers and passengers have quarantine passes.

Local governments issue only one quarantine pass per household.

Mr. Eleazar said COVID-19 cases could surge if physical distancing and other measures are ignored.

“Let us not make the malls the ground zero of the new wave of coronavirus infection,” he said.

The government on Monday threatened to close malls under a new lockdown for failing to enforce physical distancing measures.

The state could reimpose the lockdown it had relaxed this month if people continue to ignore the rules, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said.

The warning came after photos circulated online showing people crowding at major malls. Photos also showed people working out in gyms and eating at restaurants.

SM, Robinsons and other malls were allowed to reopen at the weekend under relaxed lockdown rules as the government tries to revive an economy that the virus brought to a near standstill.

But the government barred mall operators from offering free WiFi and ordered them to use warmer air-conditioning settings to discourage overcrowding. — Emmanuel Tupas, Philippine Star