12-hour operations for groceries, drug stores 'strongly encouraged' during lockdown, gov't says

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2020 11:14 AM

People wear masks inside a supermarket in Quezon City on March 12, 2020 as reports of a lockdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak circulated on social media have people rushing to buy supply. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The Philippines on Thursday "strongly encouraged" supermarkets, pharmacies and other businesses selling basic goods to extend their daily operations to 12 hours to avoid crowding as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other establishments that should remain open for at least half a day on a daily basis are wet markets, agri-fishery supply stores, drug stores, and other retail establishments selling basic necessities, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a virtual press briefing.

"Ang mga supermarket, palengke, grocery, botika at iba pa ay hinihikayat na i-extend ang kanilang operating hours para umabot po ito ng 12 hours," he said.

(We are calling on stores selling basic necessities to extend their operating hours to up to 12 hours.)

The call is part of the latest resolution of the government's inter-agency task force on COVID-19.

Trade chief Ramon Lopez earlier said shortened operating hours of some stores lead to large crowds of buyers. The government is requiring physical distancing to stop the spread of the disease, which has killed 96 people in the Philippines.

Local government units should allow the extended operating hours of such establishments and adopt "reasonable" physical distancing measures.

Nograles suggested providing schedules for residents in villages to go out.

Last week, the Department of the Interior and Local Government urged local government units to lift policies on window hours for market and grocery trips since it tends to gather more people at the same time.

Luzon's borders were temporarily closed on March 17 to limit the entry and exit of possible COVID-19 carriers. The lockdown is scheduled to end on April 12.