COVID-19 Crisis: Trade Secretary Lopez proposes allowing vaccinated people to dine in food-and-beverage joints, and enter personal care service joints during MECQ

Nothing changes the fact that the restrictions imposed on businesses as a result of lockdown or the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) caused damage on the national economy in the forms of rising unemployment, added business hardship and the loss of income for the affected employees as the national authorities struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) declared that the nation’s economy would lose at least P150 billion per week in relation to Metro Manila and other areas being placed under the most restrictive quarantine measure while the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) announced that the economy should be reopened to prevent any more economic damage. ECOP already stated that lockdown is no remedy.

For the newcomers reading this, under ECQ and MECQ, dining inside food-and-beverage joints and availing of indoor services of personal care service businesses are forbidden. Restaurants, coffee shops and related food-and-beverage joints are limited to take-out and deliveries. Very recently, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez has a proposal to help the food-and-beverage joints and personal care service providers and literally give more breathing room to consumers who have already been vaccinated. Take note that already the government announced that more than 50 million new COVID-19 vaccines will come into the country in September and October.

To put things into perspective, posted below is the excerpt from the Manila Times report. Some parts in boldface…

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez is proposing to allow vaccinated people to dine-in in restaurants and enter personal care services establishments in areas under stricter quarantine measures.

In a Viber message to reporters, Lopez said this will help spur employment in those sectors.

Same MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) but [I] am pushing for allowing vaccinated to [be] allowed only in these restricted sectors like dine-in and personal care. Because we are saying that in these restricted sectors, those who are vaccinated are safer. So, we don’t expect an increase in severe critical (cases) and should not worsen ICU (intensive care unit) cases,” Lopez told reporters in a Viber message.

We pity the dine-in workers. About one million jobs and P1.5 billion revenues gone per week in the National Capital Region (NCR),” he added.

Lopez said that on top of these, 200,000 jobs in the personal care services sector in NCR were also affected.

“For other sectors, no need for distinguishing because both the vaccinated and unvaccinated are allowed. For example, both vaccinated and unvaccinated are allowed to go to malls or ride public transport,” he said.

“Again to clarify, [vaccinated should be allowed] only in restricted sectors during lockdowns like dine-in, personal care services, and meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions. If it’s not locked down, all vaccine status should be allowed subject to operating capacity,” he added.

Lopez, however, clarified that these should be allowed to operate at a maximum of 20- percent capacity.

“We believe in the vaccine. So, we should believe in the vaccinated. This should also serve as an incentive to those who are vaccinated and to encourage vaccination. With this, we help bring back jobs, open up these sectors,” said Lopez.

He said that once approved, this will be part of the new Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) guidelines.

Metro Manila and other Covid-19 critical areas were earlier placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until August 20.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) disclosed that the two-week ECQ will cost the Philippine economy P120 billion and aggravate poverty.

In relation to the details emphasized by Trade Secretary Lopez, the affected businesses within the restricted sectors can be relieved economically and already there are millions of vaccinated consumers available in Metro Manila to come in and support these businesses even though the maximum capacity is fixed at 20% under MECQ. The unemployed and the under-employed impacted by the ECQ/MECQ will finally get the opportunities to be hired and be able to earn much-needed income. That being said, it is a must that we pray in supporting Lopez’s proposal to get approved so that our nation as whole can recover better and that MECQ won’t be too damaging for businesses and workers anymore.  

Speaking of the National Capital Region (NCR), pay close attention as to how Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos and the members of the Metro Manila Council (MMC) will perceive and react to Lopez’s proposal of allowing food-and-beverage joints and personal care businesses to cater to vaccinated customers at limited capacity during MECQ. Take note that during the last ECQ, it was the MMDA and MMC who approved the restriction on outdoor exercise while businesses and their employees kept losing! Think about how these Metro Manila authorities think. That being said, it is essential to pray to our Lord to enlighten and guide all the government officials so they can do their jobs better and correctly.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Do you agree with Trade Secretary Lopez’s proposal to help the affected businesses during MECQ? If you are still unvaccinated, does this recent development encourage you at all to get vaccinated? If you are an owner of a food-and-beverage joint or a personal care services joint, what do you think about Lopez’s proposal in helping you and your employees?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.


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