(UPDATE) Metro Manila mayors agreed during a meeting Saturday to again close cinemas and amusement centers as COVID-19 infections have spiked, MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos said.
"Metro Manila Mayors will have one policy, one voice as far as Metro Manila is concerned. Movies, arcades, cinemas, will be suspended temporarily because of this upsurge," Abalos said.
“Importante talaga dito ay 'yung back to basic, it’s the minimum health protocols, ito ’yung face shield mask, specially distancing and of course, ’yung paghuhugas ng kamay. These 3 things could make a lot of difference, napaka-importante po nito,” he added.
Abalos said the upsurge of new cases has become alarming especially that the spike took place in the last 2 weeks.
“Sa totoo lang, ang quarantine area namin ngayon sa Oplan Kalinga ng Department of Tourism at MMDA, the ones in charge of quarantine hotels, halos 89 percent puno na kamo, mapupuno na,” the MMDA chairman said.
Abalos said there was a need for a strict enforcement of health protocols before things get out of hand.
“Dapat talaga may mga safety officers na palaging umiikot to make sure na talagang lahat naka-mask at ’yung social distancing,” he said.
"Talagang hihigpitan na lang nang husto ang mga ganu’n. Bale sisitahin na. Sisitahin na ng husto, and I believe there are penalties for these things.
“Kasi kung minsan sa mga bara-barangay na lang, makikita mo ’yung iba, halos ’yung maskara nakababa, palakad-lakad. Wala na. Talagang kung minsan magkukumpulan na lang, di ba? Ganu’n ang nagyayari.”
In a separate interview on Teleradyo on Sunday, Abalos said this closure is temporary, and will be in place until the surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases in NCR have stabilized.
"Pansamantala lang naman po ito, na isarado muna ang mga arcade at sinehan. Sana maintindihan po ng mga publiko ito," he said.
The Film Development Council of the Philippines on Thursday announced that cinemas were back, citing the finalized Department of Trade and Industry guidelines allowing cinemas in MGCQ areas to operate at 50% capacity, and in GCQ areas at 25% capacity from Friday, March 5, onwards.
That would have to be put on hold, however, as far as the National Capital Region is concerned.
Earlier this week, Valenzuela City had planned to reopen cinemas and game arcades by Friday but at limited capacity and following stringent regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Talk of reopening cinemas and other public attractions gained traction over the past few weeks in the hopes that businesses shuttered for almost a year could finally resume operations.
But the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases this week — the daily numbers unseen since October 2020 — forced local government heads to pull back.
When the topic was being discussed, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said opening cinemas, even at half their capacity, wouldn't curb COVID-19 transmission.
" 'Pag nanood ka ng sine, nakikipag-usap ka, kumakain ka. Minsan sumisigaw ka kasi maganda 'yung palabas. So (those) alone are modes of expelling out the droplet or more aerosolization in that particular environment," Solante told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
He noted ventilation in cinemas was not all the same, and that some may be substandard with low air-change rate, adding risks to moviegoers.
"We don't know how much the air is changed inside that movie house, so 'yun ang mga risks na nakikita ko sa sinehan. And then you are there for 1 hour, or 1 and half hour," Solante said.
Crowding in arcades, meanwhile, can be controlled, the disease expert added, but remained risky.