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Businesses in GCQ areas almost back to normal

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Business operations in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) will almost go back to normal, but are required to conduct employee tests and shoulder the cost as part of the business standard health protocols to protect workers from the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said that while most industries that were previously banned under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) are now allowed to reopen, they must implement strict standard health protocols.

Lopez will submit today, (Wednesday) all the list, recommendations and business protocols to the Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Once approved, he said, the new GCQ guidelines will take effect this Friday, May 1, 2020. Provinces under GCQ include Apayao, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, Ilocos Sur, Batanes, Quirino, Aurora, Palawan, Romblon, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Masbate, Guimaras, Bohol, Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Davao Occidental, Sarangani, Agusan del Sur,Dinagat Island,Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Basilan, Sulu. Some provinces were also placed under low risk or GCQ but subject to review.

According to Lopez, companies are required to shoulder the cost of COVID-19 tests for their employees. “If they don’t allow, they should be worried as there can be possible carrier,” he said in a chat with reporters.

“Employment will depend on the establishment. It is up to the management if they will restart with 100 percent workforce. But it is largely driven by demand and supply although there are already enterprises operating at 100 percent,” he said during a morning television show “Umagang Kay Ganda” interview.

Among the industries that are allowed to reopen under the GCQ areas are those allowed under the ECQ like the basic essentials (food and non-food), and services such as banks.

Also allowed under GCQ are all manufacturing activities like cement, steel, electrical equipment and computers, wood and paper, automotive and motorcycle. On services, BPOs and retail/wholesale services are allowed. Malls are allowed but for non-leisure enterprises only. Construction projects may resume and hardware stores can open their stores, too.

All professions are allowed to resume as well as government offices and their workforce. Real estate (except buying and selling), office and administrative support, legal and accounting, insurance, architecture and engineering services, scientific and research and development, and social work activities (without accommodation) may also resume activities.

Reopening of beauty salons and barber shops may be allowed to open but subject to very strict standards to ensure social distancing is observed. Hotel reopening is allowed but only for special purpose of providing accommodations for workers, BPOs, exporters and banks. Some hotels have repurposed their operations to serve stranded and returning OFWs or are serving individuals under quarantine.

Dining in restaurants is still banned. This means restaurants will continue to operate for take-out, pick-up and delivery only. Also banned are entertainments, theaters, play centers, events, conventions and shows.

For seniors 60 and above and kids 20 years and below, Lopez said he would push for limited hours from 10 am to 1 pm for them to be allowed to go to malls or grocery shopping.

On the minimum business standard health protocols, Lopez said these include strict observance of social distancing, must wearing of face masks, sanitation stations, use of thermal scanners, and complete disinfectants on frequently touch points such as elevators, escalators and comfort rooms.

The trade chief explained that these measures must be exercised in order to minimize the health risk among workers as essential enterprises conduct their operations.

“It is accepted that health takes primacy over the economy, but there is no dichotomy between the two if we take precautionary health measures when we do business and work with other people to minimize any health risk in a post-ECQ environment,” Lopez added.

Several sectors have been recognized by DTI for their interventions in protecting the safety and well-being of their employees, as well as in providing them with extensive health benefits.

Among these include leading export-oriented manufacturing industries, which provided additional health benefits such as near-site accommodation and shuttle services, hiring from local communities, provision of vitamins and medicines and regular check-ups and healthcare in the workplace. These companies also distributed face masks and digital thermometers to employees at no cost, and set up ambulances, isolation tents, and clinics in their facilities.

DTI has also been working with the DOH and DOLE to issue the new set of guidelines on the minimum health protocols in all business operations.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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