MANILA — Owners of malls in Metro Manila have expressed willingness to close shop in the duration of the government-imposed community quarantine in the region, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Saturday, while establishments inside that cater to basic commodities would remain open.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the interagency task force on the response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) classified malls as an area of "mass gathering," which is prohibited during the quarantine period from March 15 to April 14.
Under quarantine guidelines released by Malacañang on Saturday, mass gatherings such as movie screenings, concerts, sporting events, entertainment activities, community assemblies and non-essential work-related gatherings are prohibited.
"I have talked to the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and tenants and mall owners. Ok to sacrifice. Also they can reduce opex (operating expenses) and cut rentals," Lopez told ABS-CBN News.
But supermarkets, hardwares, drugstores, health clinics, banks, and other basic service providers inside malls will remain open, said the trade chief.
Lopez noted that the number of mall goers has declined in "recent days."
Metro Manila will be under community quarantine beginning Sunday, March 15, to Tuesday, April 14 in a bid to arrest the spread of COVID-19, now considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Local chief executives in Metro Manila have also agreed to impose a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. as the quarantine takes effect.
ADJUSTED MALL HOURS
Ahead of this, Robinsons Malls and Ayala Malls announced they will close their Metro Manila branches earlier, at 7 p.m., beginning Saturday until further notice.
SM Malls also announced adjusted mall hours, from 11 a.m. to an earlier closure time of 7 p.m., starting Sunday "in support of the regulated curfew within Metro Manila."
The Philippines has recorded 64 cases of the new coronavirus strain, mostly in Metro Manila. Among them, 8 have died.
—Reports from Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News