THE trade department is preparing an order increasing the capacity limit for restaurant dine-in operations to 50% in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), starting July 21.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez in a mobile message to reporters Monday said that a new memorandum circular will be released this week increasing the dine-in cap to 50% under GCQ and 75% under modified general community quarantine.
The department has released guidelines increasing the operating capacity of salons and barbershops to those levels starting July 16.
The government plans to announce which areas will retain or shift their quarantine status after July 15, the end of the extended quarantine, on that day.
Mr. Lopez said health guidelines at restaurants, salons, and barbershops should be more strictly implemented after the Health department warned the public that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) could be airborne.
The department will be recommending the optional use of 18-inch acrylic dividers and air purifiers to hinder transmission.
“We should be stricter in implementing the health protocols, and customers to be extra careful, which means still wearing masks if not eating at the moment, safe social distancing and frequent sanitation of hands,” Mr. Lopez said.
“We just have to manage and live with the virus. It will be here to stay. Need to balance health and economy and time to restart the economy. Provide more livelihood at this time.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said more studies need to be done on airborne transmission, noting that to its knowledge, the virus is mainly spread through contact and respiratory droplets. The agency said the form of transmission may occur in certain medical procedures and in crowded indoor spaces including restaurants and fitness classes.
The WHO released its report after 239 scientists signed a letter asking it to acknowledge potential airborne transmission of the virus.
Dr. Carolina L. Tapia, Head of Research of Preventive and Community Medicine at St. Luke’s College of Medicine, said in a mobile message on Monday that two-meter physical distancing will not be enough if the virus is airborne.
In the case of this type of transmission, she said, talking and singing can transmit the virus, especially in enclosed spaces.
“Adequacy of indoor ventilation should be ensured — the air should be free flowing. Or use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Overcrowded, poorly ventilated areas are high risk,” she said. — Jenina P. Ibañez