MANILA — Once cinemas in the country reopen in March a year after the country started implementing quarantine measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, moviegoers should follow health protocols and precautionary measures, a Department of Health official said Thursday.
“Hindi pupunuin ang sinehan. Bawal kumain. Bawal tumanggap ng tawag, naka-off ang telepono… 'Wag kayong gagamit ng CR sa sinehan hangga’t maaari, at malamang sa hindi ay mababawasan natin yung risk,” said Dr. Eric Tayag, director of DOH’s Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service.
(Cinemas should not be filled to capacity. Eating should not be allowed. Calls should not be answered or phones should be turned off. And you should not use the restroom in the cinema as much as possible. With these, we can lower the risk.)
All moviegoers should wear masks as well, he added.
Tayag gave the advice as the government allowed the re-opening of cinemas beginning March 1 amid concerns raised by mayors and experts.
The official said because people are not facing each other and seats will be apart, the risk is not that high.
There might be fewer screenings in a day to give way to disinfection after every screening, he noted.
He reminded those who are sick or undergoing quarantine that they cannot go out and watch movies.
Tayag explained that the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 are not zero risk but that there are ways to manage the risk while balancing the needs of the economy.
For those who feel that going to the movies is still risky, he said there are other forms of entertainment such as drive-in cinemas and online videos.
“Ang binigay na threshold ng Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention ng United States) sa isang kulob na lugar, hindi ventilated, dapat hindi lalagpas ng dalawang oras. 'Pag lagpas dalawang oras na, tumataas ang risk,” Tayag said when asked how long people can stay in areas that are not open air.
(The threshold given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States in a place that is not well-ventilated is no more than 2 hours. Staying there for more than 2 hours raises the risk.)
He said this is why the number of cases in an area and the strategy of the local government unit also matter in this issue.
“Maraming lugar sa Pilipinas, wala na masyadong kaso. Kung wala masyado, bakit hindi buksan? Kung palagay ninyo malalagay kayo sa panganib, 'wag po kayong manood,” he said.
(There are already many places in the Philippines without a lot of cases. And if there are not a lot of cases, why not re-open? But if you feel that you will be put in danger, don’t go to cinemas.)
As regards the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority to allow those aged 5 to 70 to go out of their homes, Tayag said the observance of health protocols by the community will have to be considered in coming up with a final decision.
“May dahilan po kung bakit pinapayagan 'yan ng IATF. Sapagkat ang susunod na hakbang n'yan ay mabigyan na ulit ng new normal, ang ating mag-aaral ay unti-unting bumalik na sila sa kanilang silid paaralan,” he said.
(There’s a reason why the IATF allowed that. It’s because the next step towards the new normal is for our students to slowly return to their classrooms.)
He said being cooped up inside the house is also not good for the mental health of children, especially those who are used to being around their age.
“Subalit, hindi naman sinasabi na 'yan ay ligtas na. May kaakibat pa rin 'yan na panganib, lalong lalo na wala pang bakuna para sa mga bata. Kaya ang magulang ang s'yang magiging gabay,” Tayag said.
(But that does not mean that it is safe. There are still risks, especially since there are still no vaccines for children. That is why parents should guide them.)
He advised parents to observe if members of their community are following health protocols, such as the wearing of masks and the observing physical distancing.
If people in the community are disciplined, then parents can allow their children to go out, he said.
Different parts of the Philippines have been under varying degrees of quarantine restrictions since March last year. Among those most affected are children and senior citizens who have not been allowed to go to out of their homes because they are considered vulnerable to the infectious disease.
On Thursday, the country's COVID-19 cases breached the 555,000 mark, with 1,744 new cases reported by the health department amid the lingering uncertainty on the date of arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the delivery of the 600,000-dose donation from China's Sinovac might arrive later than the initially set date of Feb. 23 as the company wants the Philippines to first grant it an emergency use authorization.
The expected arrival of Pfizer's vaccine from the COVAX Facility this week was also pushed back due to additional requirements.
Up to 70 million are targeted for inoculation in the country to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.