MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippine government’s approval for the reopening of many cinemas, video arcades and other recreational shops that have closed since last year has been postponed for at least two more weeks after mayors feared they might have new coronavirus infections could bring with them.
The easing of restrictions in the capital and other regions under moderate restrictions was planned after Manila suffered one of the worst pandemic-induced recessions in the region.
The government will also allow larger crowds within places of worship in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, allowing 50% of their 30% capacity.
Mayors of the Metro Manila Development Agency expressed concern about the reopening of cinemas and video arcades. Filipino officials said mayors and health officials should establish rules to ensure safety while easing quarantine restrictions in public areas such as museums, libraries, parks and historical sites.
“This is a very problematic matter. This could lead to an increase in our COVID cases, ”Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro told ABS CBN News. Mayors in the capital region were not consulted by the national government about the reopening of cinemas.
Teodoro said he would order movie houses to remain closed in his city.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno told The Associated Press that he and other mayors would meet government officials to discuss reopening theaters, which he welcomed as long as health protection measures were in place.
The former television and movie actor said the film house staff should be tested for the virus, adding that reopening theaters would help movie companies produce films again.
“We want the economy to reopen as widely and responsibly as possible,” he said over the phone.
President’s spokesman Harry Roque said at a televised press conference that the reopening of movie theaters in the capital region would be postponed from Monday to March 1 to allow for consultation and more time to prepare safety guidelines. Movie houses in regions where health policies have been drawn up could reopen immediately, Roque said.
Roque said a government agency dealing with the pandemic and mayors are “not getting involved in a cockfight.” “We agree that the economy should gradually reopen as more people are now starving than those who get sick or die from COVID.”
The Philippines has reported nearly 550,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 11,500 deaths, the second highest in Southeast Asia. The government has been criticized for failing to get COVID-19 vaccines right away despite a pandemic hotspot.
President Rodrigo Duterte said wealthier western countries, where the vaccines come from, have bought massive doses of vaccine for their citizens, thereby depriving poorer countries like the Philippines of early supplies. Roque said the first batches of the COVID-19 vaccine, including about 600,000 doses donated by China, would arrive in the Philippines later this month.
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