Economy

Palace justifies plan to reopen movie houses amid pandemic

FREEPIK

THE PRESIDENTIAL palace on Thursday defended a plan to let movie houses in Manila, the capital and nearby cities reopen amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The plight of film workers should be considered, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing.

Former pandemic task force adviser Anthony C. Leachon earlier said letting cinema operations resume was “very risky” and could put Metro Manila at a higher risk from the coronavirus.

“Theaters are indoors, can involve being near crowds and may be poorly ventilated,” he tweeted.

Movie theaters will be allowed to operate at a 30% capacity once the National Capital Region shifts to Alert Level 3 on Oct. 16.

Safety measures are in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus inside movie houses, Mr. Roque said.

“First, moviegoers shall be vaccinated,” he said. “Second, 30% capacity will be observed. No person will be allowed to sit side-by-side.”

The Department of Health (DoH) had released guidelines mandating proper ventilation and air purifying systems in cinemas, Mr. Roque said.

He added that the decision was timely since most of the residents in Metro Manila have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

About 50.97 million coronavirus vaccines had been given out as of Oct. 13. Almost 24 million 30.8% of adult Filipinos have been fully vaccinated.

“For as long as the minimum health public standards are followed, we can give it a try, then monitor if there’s going to be an unusual increase of cases if and when the cinemas are opened,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

DoH reported 7,835 coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 2.7 million. The death toll rose to 40,221 after 154 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 5,317 to 2.57 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 84,850 active cases, 77.2% of which were mild, 10.6% did not show symptoms, 3.6% were severe, 7.01% were moderate and 1.5% were critical.

The agency said 58 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 42 of which were reclassified as recoveries and two as deaths while 89 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Four laboratories failed to submit data on Oct. 12.

Meanwhile Mr. Duque said he had not been consulted about a government decision to scrap the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries.

“I’ve always supported a facility quarantine for at least five days, then test, then you continue at home,” said Mr. Duque, who was at a Senate hearing when an inter-agency task force made the decision.

“Apparently, the Inter-Agency Task Force went through the process and they approved this and what we can do now is to strictly monitor this,” he said.

Mr. Duque said pandemic officials were set to meet on Thursday to discuss the decision and other pandemic matters. “We’ll see how this is going to turn out because we have some issues to raise.”

Mr. Roque said the task force was set to update the so-called green list of countries considered safe for travel.

American Samoa, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cayman Islands, Chad, China (mainland), Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Hungary, Madagascar, Mali, Federated States of Micronesia, Montserrat, New Zealand are on the green list.

Niger, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Poland, Saba (Special Municipality of the Kingdom of Netherlands), Saint Pierre, Sierra Leone, Sint Eustatius, Taiwan, Algeria, Bhutan, Cook Islands, Eritrea, Kiribati, are also on the list.

The list of low-risk countries also includes Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Niue, North Korea, Saint Helena, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tokelau, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Uzbekistan and Yemen. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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