Small businesses see sales rise as pilot in-person classes begin, but fear Omicron

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 06 2021 07:33 PM

Pupils observe physical distancing as school authorities hold a simulation of the face to face classes at the Comembo Elementary School Makati City on December 02, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Pupils observe physical distancing as school authorities hold a simulation of the face to face classes at the Comembo Elementary School Makati City on December 02, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Bagong Silangan and Payatas B elementary schools in Quezon City were among the schools to pilot face-to-face classes Monday. The number of students that came to school was limited, but business doubled or even tripled for some of the small businesses and public utility vehicles there.

Brigette Gerona, who has been manning one small store at the Bagong Silangan School for 4 years now, said sales have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, but Monday’s revenues were definite improvement. 

“Ngayon pong pandemic, konti na lang po, matumal, minsan umaabot kami P1,000 plus, ganon lang. Minsan di pa umaabot dun. Matumal po. Dati po umaabot ng P3,000 plus," she said.

(Now due to pandemic, my sales are low and rare, reaching just a little more than P1,000 daily. There are times when it doesn't even reach that amount. Before the pandemic, my sales reach P3,000 plus.)

When asked if her sales were boosted by the return of in-person classes in Bagong Silangan School, she said: "Opo, nasa P2,000 na rin po (Yes, sales went up to P200 .” 

As the Philippines tries to return to pre-pandemic living after long and multiple lockdowns, local and international experts have warned of the threat of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant due to its transmissibility and reported evasion of vaccines.

Gerona is fearful of what Omicron might bring, but she said she is encouraged by how the students behaved during their first day back. 

"Naka-face mask po, minsan 'yung iba naka face shield pa para hindi sila ma-ano ng virus. Minsan may dala pa na alcohol," she said.

(They wear face masks, and sometimes, some students wear face shields to protect themselves from the virus. They even bring alcohol.)

Tricycle driver Arnold Ayco meanwhile said that to accommodate more students, he and his colleagues were finally allowed to carry more than one passenger at a time. 

"Medyo ok na rin po, kasi naging tatluhan na pasahero namin. Nadagdagan ng dalawa," he said.

(It's a little better since our passenger limit stretched to three. Two more were added.)

According to Ayco, this also allowed them to lower the price of each trip per customer. During lockdowns, commuters had to pay for a tricycle ride on their own, instead of splitting it with as many as 4 other passengers when this was still allowed pre-pandemic.

Ayco however is afraid these improvements could be short-lived now due to Omicron's threat.

"Siyempre, 'pag totoo talaga yan, nakakatakot talaga 'yon," he said.

(If that's true, it's really scary for us.)

For small business owner Sheila May Caldito, the face-to-face classes have not bumped up sales much, but she is hopeful things will pick up. 

“Ngayon may face-to-face, parang hindi pa rin po kasi konti pa lang ang pumapasok eh," she said.

(Even now there are face-to-face classes, it hasn't picked up yet since there are few students that have returned.)

She noted she may have actually had better revenues during the pandemic when she shifted her strategy by selling toys instead of snacks. 

“Yung mga bata nasa loob, 'yung mga nanay bumibili ng mga laruan para dun na lang sila sa loob ng bahay maglaro," Caldito said.

(The kids are inside the school, while the parents buy toys so their children would just play inside their homes.)
 
But she has not allowed her own child to go back to attending face-to-face classes because of the new variant. 

“Kasi wala pa siyang vaccine, at baka mamaya kung ano ang mangyari sa kaniya. 'Di naman sagot ng school kasi may waiver na pinipirmahan, 'di ako pumayag," Caldito explained.

(My child hasn't received the vaccine yet, and there might be danger. The school wouldn't be responsible if something happened so I did not allow my child to attend face-to-face classes.)

Fellows from the independent OCTA Research Group earlier said possibility of a case surge due to the new COVID-19 Omicron variant "is not that high".

While the Omicron variant "appears to be spreading faster" than earlier COVID-19 strains, vaccinated people who contract this type of coronavirus "are only showing mild symptoms at worst," OCTA Research fellow Guido David said in an online press conference.

As of December 2, the Department of Health has yet to detect the presence of the Omicron variant in the Philippines.

Pandemic-weary corporations worldwide have struggled to assess the impact of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, with industries from Hollywood movie studios to airlines and autos awaiting more details to help determine how it might affect their operations and profits.

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