Courtesy of Makati Diamond Residences.

THE local meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) industry is picking up, as is in-person worship, despite the recent increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.  

Organizers are relying on safety protocols such as temperature checks, mask wearing, social distancing, and “cough etiquette” to prevent their events from becoming superspreaders. 

At the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), where the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival will be back with onsite screenings from Aug. 5 to 14, temperature checks are required at the entrances.  

Patrons are likewise asked to wear face masks and present their vaccination records, said the venue operations division of the CCP’s production and exhibition department. 

“Although we are already allowed to accommodate up to 100% venue capacity, the CCP venues remain at 80% seating capacity,” the department told BusinessWorld in a July 15 e-mail.  

In March 2020, CCP canceled 800 shows that would have welcomed 800,000 visitors as a result of the first pandemic-induced lockdown.  

At Makati Diamond Residences, event participants are “excited, happy, and eager” to experience face-to-face events again, said Lili-An S. Popa, director of sales and marketing of the luxury serviced apartment in Legaspi Village. “We’ve made it a point to keep in touch with our previous clients. Having a good business relationship with them has paid off.” 

Like CCP, social distancing at Makati Diamond Residences is “still highly encouraged.”  

Event reservations at the serviced apartment are typically for 60 guests. 

“We would like to be optimistic in assessing that the global situation is improving,” Ms. Popa said in a separate July 15 e-mail. “However, there are still other factors affecting the Philippine economy. Thus, the MICE market is treading carefully in the planning, marketing, and implementing of activities.” 

CCP and Makati Diamond Residences moreover have HEPA filters in its air-handling units and ducts. 

Religious organizations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have also started welcoming its members back in hybrid worship. 

“There is a collective shout of joy among Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world,” said James Ryan G. Morales, Philippine spokesman of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “While we have prospered in many ways as individuals and congregations using technology to bring us together, nothing can adequately replace being together in person.” 

Meetings, which draw about 100 attendees, are conducted nationwide across its 2,436 Kingdom Halls either in-person or through the remote conferencing app Zoom. Guidelines for in-person attendees include mask wearing, as well as proof of full vaccination status for individuals 18 years and above. 

As with both CCP and Makati Diamond Residences, each of the Kingdom Halls have stations equipped with sanitizers. Each hall also has liquid soaps and paper towels made available to meeting attendees. 

“High-touch surfaces such as chairs, doorknobs, countertops, and faucets are cleaned and sanitized after each congregation meeting,” Mr. Morales said. “Virtual attendance via Zoom continues to function for unvaccinated individuals, or for those who show symptoms of sickness or prefer to stay at home.” 

Resuming in-person meetings “brings us closer together as we endure the hardships of inflation, tragedies, and anxiety,” added Mr. Morales. 

The government, through the Inter-Agency Task Force, has allowed 100% capacity in establishments in areas under Alert Level 1 on June 4.  

The Department of Health (DoH) encourages the public to continue to wear masks, follow health protocols, and get vaccinated. 

As of this writing, the agency has yet to set its vaccination and booster targets for the Marcos administration’s first 100 days. 

In a July 18 Viber message to reporters, the DoH said that  15,592,533 individuals out of the total eligible population of 65,340,001 have been boosted.  

According to the DoH’s latest COVID bulletin, there were 14,640 coronavirus infections in the past week, with a daily average of 2,091 cases. The daily average from July 11 to 17 rose by 44% from a week earlier, it added. — Patricia B. Mirasol