Expert warns of high-risk COVID-19 transmission in cinemas

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2021 11:21 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2021 11:34 PM

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MANILA - Cinemas are 'high-risk' places of COVID-19 transmission, an expert warned Monday, amid proposals to re-open movie houses and other leisure establishments in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas like Metro Manila to boost the economy.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said cinemas are mostly enclosed areas, explaining that government's proposal to allow them to operate at 50 percent capacity won't help much in avoiding possible COVID-19 transmission.

"If you are like 50 percent occupied sa sinehan, 'no, and 'pag nanood ka ng sine, nakikipag-usap ka, kumakain ka, 'no. Minsan sumisigaw ka kasi maganda 'yung palabas. So that alone are mode of expelling out the droplet or more aerosolization in that particular environment," Solante told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

He noted ventilations of cinemas are not all the same and that some may be substandard with low air change rate, adding risks to moviegoers.

"We don't know how much the air is changed inside that movie house, so 'yun ang mga risks na nakikita ko sa sinehan. And then you are there for 1 hour, or 1 and half hour," Solante said.

Crowding in arcades meanwhile can be controlled, the disease expert said, but added there are still risks of transmission of COVID-19 in such areas.

"'Di ba 'pag nag-gaming ka, sumisigaw ka rin 'no. E hindi naman pwede na 'di ka sumisigaw doon. So nandoon na rin 'yung risk of aerosolization and airborne, even if you wear a face mask. Siguro moderate risk 'yun compared to [cinemas]," he said.

Museums are low-risk, Solante said, noting there are few visitors amid the pandemic, while theme parks are between low to moderate risk due to their open-air environment. He flagged refreshment areas however as risky places of transmission. 

Earlier in the day, Malacañang announced the reopening of traditional movie theaters in Metro Manila has been moved to March 1, subject to the approval of local governments.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said businesses like cinemas will not be allowed to reopen or expand their operation in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) without the approval of local officials.

But mayors in Metro Manila, which is under GCQ this February, have already opposed the reopening of cinemas in their jurisdictions, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said Sunday.

Movie producers and theater chain operators meanwhile have adopted a cautious, wait-and-see attitude on the controversial reopening.

Roselle Monteverde and Vincent del Rosario, who helm Regal and Viva Entertainment, respectively, told ABS-CBN News that they have the capability to provide cinemas with movie material, some of which have long been canned. 

Nonetheless, along with other members of the local producers association, the movie magnates are still awaiting the IATF guidelines and, more important, the guidance of mayors. 

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