Pinoys are positively, undoubtedly, mall rats. We do everything at the malls— that’s where we shop, eat, and even hear Mass. They were sorely missed when the establishments were shut down. So it’s perfectly understandable that people trooped to the malls after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was lifted, but the government is having none of that risky behavior while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging in the country.
Today the government, through Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, threatened to shut down malls if they fail to implement social distancing measures after several photos circulated on social media showing dozens of shoppers crowding into retail spaces.
Speaking in his daily virtual presser, Roque said in English and Filipino, “What happened on Saturday? Crowds of people went to the malls…There was no physical distancing. Some even pushed each other. If we keep doing that, everyone will get COVID-19 and not dole-outs…[I wish to remind you that] the virus is still there. While there is no vaccine or treatment, we are not safe from COVID-19.”
“If we remain stubborn, a lot of people will be infected with COVID-19. We will be like other countries where their cases of COVID-19 increased after quarantine restrictions were relaxed and people stopped following health standards,” the spokesman said.
“Mall owners, we have a rule. A two square-meter space should just be limited to one person. You should follow this, and you should assign security guards and mall employees to implement social distancing and the wearing of face masks. For malls which do not have social distancing and crowd control…we will shut you down again,” Roque threatened.
As proof, Roque showed the viral photos taken by a netizen named Mark Samson, which the latter said was shot at 3pm on Saturday at SM City North EDSA in Quezon City. The images don’t bode well for the future, because the Philippines has only 13,457 hospital beds and 1,963 ventilators, said Roque. There’s a high probability that should cases spike, the country’s resources would be spread thin.
“If we continue to be stubborn and crowd public spaces, and get sick…and the doubling time of cases shortens to two days…in one week or two weeks our [hospital] beds will run out and you will end up getting treated on the streets,” he warned.
However, at least one government official disagreed with Roque that malls were crowded over the weekend. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told the House of Representatives today that malls were only partially occupied by people, and that rumors of them getting densely crowded were nothing but “fake news.”
Lopez said he personally went to the malls on Sunday and took photos, which he showed to congressmen. He did not say, however, where these malls were located.
“These are actual pictures. We made an inspection yesterday just for me to see and verify the various fake news coming out that there are so many people violating social distancing during the opening of malls,” he said.
“So, we checked personally some malls in the metropolis that were usually full on Sundays. Here, we can see that the crowd isn’t that large,” the secretary said.
“While we were interviewing [the employees], doing a quick survey, they said the crowd is only about 20 percent of what a typical Sunday afternoon [is], pre-COVID. The only ones open were the supermarkets and drug stores. Because even the food areas were only for take out and delivery. So, people were very few,” he insisted.