Personal grooming, long the concern of residents confined to their homes on account of the lockdown, gets a much-needed reprieve in the shift to a more relaxed restrictive level starting Monday as the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) approved the gradual reopening of barbershops and salons in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez revealed that the IATF finally gave the go signal on Friday, pointing out that these establishments would start operating at 30 percent capacity beginning 7 June in GCQ areas and at 50 percent capacity in areas under modified GCQ, which cover most of the country.
Lopez stressed that these establishments should follow first the minimum health protocol standards set by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to streamline the reopening process, the government will do away with accreditation.
However, Lopez disclosed that the establishments will be checked for compliance with COVID-19 prevention protocol.
“There will be no need for accreditation to remove any bureaucracy in opening, but there will operations audit to be done, and non-compliant shops will be closed down until they correct the deficiencies,” Lopez said.
Under a 30 percent capacity arrangement, Lopez noted that only one of three seats in the barbershops and salons will be initially allowed to be occupied by customers.
In a separate statement, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that salons and barbershops in GCQ areas will be allowed to increase operations to 50 percent after two weeks from resumption, and those in MGCQ areas to 100 percent after three weeks.
“Earlier opening was reconsidered in recognition of the very strict health protocol that was developed and to be adopted before they can be allowed to operate, to prevent any risk of COVID-19 transmission, as well as the need to start bringing back the jobs of the estimated 400,000 workers in the industry working in over 35,000 shops,” Roque said.
The Palace official also stressed that services allowed will be limited to haircuts.
“Don’t get too excited because services are limited to haircuts. There’s no facial, no nail services, no trimming eyebrows,” he said.
The government earlier eyed an accreditation system for barbershops and salons so that these could reopen in GCQ areas.
Salons and barbershops are prohibited from operating in GCQ areas under the prevailing community quarantine guidelines of the IATF.
Metro Manila will transition to a more relaxed GCQ on 1 June after a 2-month lockdown.
Other areas that will be placed under GCQ from 1 June are regions 2, 3, 4A, Pangasinan, Albay and Davao City. All other areas in the country are expected to transition to MGCQ.
Roque said the IATF is still studying the Department of Transportation (DoTr) guidelines for the road transport sector for the shift to GCQ.
Under the guidelines, from 1 to 21 June, under phase one, only trains, bus augmentation, taxis, TNV, shuttle services, point to point buses, tricycles with LGU clearance and bicycles are allowed.
During the phase one, no provincial buses will be allowed in Metro Manila, according to Roque.
Under phase two which will be implemented from 22 to 30 June, PUV buses, modern jeepneys and UV express will be allowed to operate.
Under the guidelines, a one-meter social distance rule between passengers will strictly be enforced inside all mass transport units and PUV. Frequent disinfection of vehicles and the mandatory use of face masks are also required.
Roque also said the DoTr is eyeing transformation of EDSA and plans to dedicate lanes for buses and bikes in EDSA.
In another development, the Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) is pushing to allow senior citizens to eat in dine-in food establishments as the government moves to reopen the sector in areas under looser lockdowns.
LKI president Vic Dimagiba stressed that senior citizens can significantly contribute to the recovery of dine-in restaurant businesses.
The consumer group’s recommendation stems from the government’s directive that those aged 60 years old and above are not allowed to leave their homes since they are vulnerable from contracting COVID-19.
“Why is it that senior citizens are prohibited to go out on all quarantine classifications?” Dimagiba said.
The government, however, allows the elderly to go out if they are working or if they are going to buy essentials, but Dimagiba stressed that the government should carefully consider allowing senior citizens in dine-in establishments since it will not be impossible for them not to comply with the strict protocols set by the DTI.
The DTI has recommended some protocols for dine-in establishments to follow, including the enforcement of a no mask, no entry policy, social distancing protocols of the establishment, regular sanitation schedule and procedures with a 10-minute interval for sanitation in between customers dining-in.
It also includes availability of alternative methods of ordering and picking-up of orders like online or texts, client-personnel interaction protocols, enforcement measures for clients who refuse to comply with the protocols in a manner consistent with the law, floor mat or foot bath with disinfectant and mandatory use of thermal scanner.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meantime said religious gatherings will be allowed provided proper protocol is observed.
Guevarra said gatherings of religious groups will be allowed up to 50 percent of the capacity of the church.
“Religious gatherings will be allowed up to 50 percent of the capacity of the church or venue in MGCQ areas by 1 June,” Guevarra said.
“As to those in GCQ areas like the NCR, the IATF will host a dialogue between the religious sector and representatives of the LGU on Monday morning,” the justice chief added.
Guevarra said from there the IATF will make a final resolution on the same day.
On Monday the restrictions will somewhat be softened though social distancing will be maintained and the wearing of masks will also be imposed on people.
Malls and other people frequented areas will open though protocols will be in place while public transport will also roll out on a limited basis.
The religious groups have presented the numerous health protocols and other stringent measures that they intend to implement once greater attendance in public worship or religious service is allowed in GCQ areas (at present, only a maximum of 10 persons is allowed).
However, some local govt officials have expressed concern that increasing the number of participants in religious gatherings may spark an upsurge in COVID-19 infections and derail their advancement to a more relaxed MGCQ level.
Elmer N. Manuel, Keith Calayag, AJ Bajo and Alvin Murcia
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