THE government is considering increasing restaurant dine-in capacity and resetting the level of permitted hotel activity in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

Mr. Lopez said in a radio interview Thursday that there is still no timetable for increasing the current cap on dine-in capacity of 30% because the shift to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) for parts of the country has yet to be scheduled.

Restaurants are currently allowed to fill 30% of their dine-in capacity in areas under GCQ, and up to 50% in areas under MGCQ. In a Laging Handa briefing Thursday, Mr. Lopez said the authorities are considering increasing capacity to 40% or 50% in areas under GCQ.

He said in a statement that the trade and tourism departments are considering allowing more capacity in hotel operations as well, subject to compliance with health guidelines.

Areas under GCQ include Metro Manila, Benguet, Cavite, Rizal, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Ormoc, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Talisay City, Minglanilla, Cebu, and Consolacion, Cebu. The rest of the country is under MGCQ except for Cebu City, which is under the stricter enhanced community quarantine.

The Department of Finance has requested bringing forward the shift to MGCQ in Metro Manila and the CALABARZON region to jump-start the economic recovery.

Mr. Lopez, in a message to reporters, said that the trade department is working on increasing current levels of business activity under GCQ and the request for an earlier move to MGCQ.

“But this levelling of quarantine (is) mostly data and science-driven. Nothing much we can do on this,” he said.

“What we can do is work on increasing the current operating capacity and to reopen more businesses where health protocols can be more effective.”

He said in the briefing that he will also present to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) the possible reopening of travel agencies after an industry association indicated that agencies have taken a big financial hit from refunding canceled bookings.

Dati ho talaga nilagay sa Category 4 thinking kasi na under GCQ wala naman travel activities. Pero kung meron mga ganitong problema na kailangan i-solve, siguro pwede naman i-consider din ‘yan under the GCQ (The industry was placed in category 4 of low-priority businesses under GCQ because we thought there was no travel going on. But now that the industry has reported problems that need to be resolved, we might consider allowing them to reopen).”

Mr. Lopez said the authorities are also studying increasing the types of services that can be performed by salons and barbershops. — Jenina P. Ibañez