Gradual improvements have been seen in some communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have even managed to steadily flatten the curve overtime; thus, the national government has believed that it is time to lift the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in some areas and allow the preliminary shift to the “new normal.” But what does that even look like?
The “new normal” – or what is known as the “General Community Quarantine” – is a form of solitary confinement that employs more lenient and relaxed measures. As we ease into the month of May, this new lifestyle will be enforced to provinces, cities, and communities that have been written off as moderate or low-risk areas.
With that being said, here are the following changes upon the implementation of the new normal:
- Minimum public health standards shall be complied at all times for the duration of the GCQ.
- The moment of all persons in areas placed under GCQ will be limited to accessing essential goods and services and for work in the offices or industries permitted to operate hereunder.
- Movement for leisure purposes shall not be allowed.
- Any person below 21 years old, those who are 60 years old and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidities, or other health risks, and pregnant women, including any person who resides with the mentioned, are required to remain in their residences at all times, except when indispensable under circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices.
- Work in government offices may be at full operational capacity or under such alternative work arrangements as agencies may deem proper in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations issued by the Civil Service Commission.
The following sectors are allowed to operate:
- Agriculture, fishery, and forestry industries, food manufacturing and food supply chain businesses, including food retail establishments such as supermarkets, grocery stores, and food preparation establishments insofar as take-out and delivery services, food delivery services, health-related establishments, the logistics sector, information technology and telecommunication companies, and the media industry may operate at full operational capacity.
- Mining and other manufacturing, export-oriented, and electronic commerce companies, as well as other delivery, repair and maintenance, and housing and office services may operate at anywhere between 50 percent up to full operational capacity, and without prejudice to work-from-home and other alternative work arrangements.
- Financial services, BPOs, legal and accounting, and auditing services, professional, scientific, technical, and other non-leisure services, and other non-leisure wholesale and retail establishments may operate at a maximum of 50 percent work-on-site arrangement, without prejudice to work-from-home and other alternative work arrangements.
- Limited operations in malls and shopping centers will be allowed, except for leisure establishments and services which shall continue to be closed.
- Establishments and services allowed to operate in malls and shopping centers may only operate at a capacity set by the IATF.
- Those ages below 21 years old and those 60 years old and above may not enter malls and shopping centers, except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in establishments located therein.
- Essential public and private construction projects, such as – but not limited to – sewerage, water services facilities, and digital works, health facilities, and priority projects will be allowed to operate per guidelines issued by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
- Amusement, gaming, and fitness establishments, as well as those in the kids and tourism industries and the like may not operate.
- No hotels or similar establishments shall be allowed to operate except those accommodating the following:
- For areas outside Luzon, guests who have existing booking accommodations for foreigners as of May 1, 2020.
- Guests who have existing long-term bookings.
- Distressed OFWs and stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals.
- Repatriated OFWs per approved quarantine protocols.
- Non-OFWs who may be required to undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine.
- Healthcare workers and other employees from exempted establishments under these guidelines and applicable memoranda from the Office of the Executive Secretary.
Note that all hotel operations shall be limited to the provision of basic lodging to guests.
Other general guidelines for the new normal also entail that:
- Physical classes shall be suspended for the duration of the GCQ. However, higher education institutions may hold classes through alternative and flexible learning arrangements to finish the academic year and may operate at a limited capacity to receive students’ requirements and prepare and issue credentials to students, subject to the guidelines as may be issued by the Commission on Higher Education.
- The prohibition on mass gatherings is also applicable to areas placed under GCQ. Provided that essential work gatherings and religious activities may continue so long as strict physical distancing and the mandatory wearing of face mask, face shield, or other facial protective equipment by attendees, is maintained during the entirety of the event.
- The road, rail, maritime, and aviation sectors of public transportation shall operate at a reduced capacity per guidelines issued by the Department of Transportation. Provided that in all public transports, a strict one-meter distance between passengers shall be observed and appropriate engineering controls in place.
- Local Government Units are enjoined to enact the necessary ordinances to enforce curfew for non-workers in jurisdictions placed under GCQ and to penalize, in a fair and humane manner, violations of the restrictions on the movement of people.
- For residential and commercial rents falling due within the duration of the ECQ or GCQ upon residential lessees and micro-, small, and medium enterprises not permitted to operate during said period, a grace period of 30 days from the last due date or until such time that the community quarantine is lifted shall be observed without incurring interests, penalties, fees, or other charges.
- All persons are mandated to wear face masks, ear-loop masks, indigenous, reusable, do-it-yourself masks, or face shields, handkerchiefs, or such other protective equipment or any combination thereof, which can effectively lessen the transmission of COVID-19, whenever they go out of their residences.
- Supermarkets, public and private wet markets, grocery stores, agri-fishery supply stores, veterinary supply stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and other retail establishments engaged in the business of selling essential goods are strongly encouraged to extend their store operations to a maximum 12 hours.
- Provided that in the operation of wet markets, LGUs are encouraged to adopt reasonable schemes to ensure compliance with strict physical distancing measures such as – but not limited to – providing for specific daily schedules per sector, barangay, or purok, as the case may be.
If infections sustain a decline, restrictions of the general community quarantine may be lifted by May 16, said Socioeconomic Planning Chief Karl Kendrick Chua.
The crisis has brought a lot of changes in the society. Even after the pandemic, and after the threat of the virus has been eliminated, there will still be an evident wedge between what is and what used to be. But fret not for this does not mean that we have not moved forward nor does it imply that we are incapable of moving forward.
These changes mean that certain habits – such as physical distancing, cautiousness, and health consciousness – must be kept as part of the “new norm” to not only get through this trying time together but to also halt the possible threat of future pandemics.
In the end, the “new normal” simply points us toward two things – to adopt and to adapt.