'We can give it a try': DOH allays virus spread fears amid reopening of cinemas

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 14 2021 12:55 PM

People lining up for the COVID-19 vaccine wait at a cinema inside SM Manila on June 22, 2021. After the city reported low turnouts in vaccination sites following the ban on walk-in clients, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno issued a directive around 4:30pm yesterday to re-allow walk-ins to boost vaccination drives in the capital. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
People lining up for the COVID-19 vaccine wait at a cinema inside SM Manila on June 22, 2021. After the city reported low turnouts in vaccination sites following the ban on walk-in clients, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno issued a directive around 4:30pm yesterday to re-allow walk-ins to boost vaccination drives in the capital. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Department of Health on Thursday allayed fears of COVID virus spread once cinemas re-open at a limited capacity following Metro Manila's de-escalation to Alert Level 3.

"They're doing vaccinations now in cinemas. For as long as the minimum health public standards are followed, we can give it a try then monitor if there’s going to be an unusual increase of cases if and when the cinemas are opened. But again this is controlled, regulated to about 30 percent," Health Secretary Francisco Duque told ANC's Headstart.

Movie theaters may reopen at a limited capacity of 30 percent once the capital region shifts to Alert Level 3 on Saturday.

Metro Manila's alert level was downgraded as its healthcare utilization rate was considered as a "low risk" 50.92 percent, its intensive care unit occupancy at a "moderate risk" 66 percent, according to Duque.

"It's a tough balancing act between health and livelihood. That’s been a constant challenge to all of us. We're sensitive to both but not to the exclusion of either. These are not mutually-exclusive propositions," he said.

"The system calls for monitoring on a daily basis. No worries, we are nimble naman. We can always escalate."

However, Dr. Maricar Limpin, chief of the Philippine College of Physicians, said a decline in COVID cases must not be the only factor in deciding whether to relax virus protocols. 

"They don't even know kung ano yung dapat na maging basehan how much decrease in then cases, ano yung utilization rate ng mga ospital na gusto nilang tingnan pag umabot ba ng ganito pwede na," said Limpin in an interview with TeleRadyo. 

The health department earlier said that the decline in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila was "not artificial."

Government might relax restrictions by Christmas should virus cases continue to drop, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said after confirming that the decline in infections was "not artificial."

President Rodrigo Duterte said he was confident that major cities nationwide would have vaccinated half of their target population before 2021 is over.

The country has fully vaccinated some 23.54 million Filipinos, while 26.94 million have received their first dose as of Tuesday, according to government data.