By Jami Ledesma
Here in the Philippines, the month of March has always ushered in the dry season in lieu of what is called “summer” in other parts of the world. Most of the country’s students are out of classrooms by this time, filling up playgrounds and holiday destinations until classes resume in June.
This year, however, life as they know it…as we know it…literally came to a grinding halt. As 2020 entered the final month of its first quarter, an escalating sense of foreboding reached a fever pitch, and Filipinos along with the rest of the world found themselves living in a new era.
Life in the time of Covid-19 had just begun.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, both of which were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
On March 7, 2020, the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first local transmission of Covid-19 in the Philippines. Fast forward just 11 days to March 18 when the DOH confirmed the total number of confirmed local cases to have multiplied to 202.
Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s March 12 directive to impose a community quarantine in Metro Manila, which was quickly upgraded to a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine on March 16, both government and private sectors found themselves scrambling to make the necessary adjustments in order to comply with this unprecedented move.
As with most establishments in Metro Manila and the rest of the world, the business operations of Winford Manila Resort & Casino (WMRC) were gravely affected by Covid-19. Gaming volume declined due to fallout in average daily foot traffic in the property.
Hotel occupancy significantly dropped as a result of lower foreign and local tourist visitation due to travel restrictions and flight cancellations. In addition, a substantial number of corporate and social events, meetings, conferences, and exhibitions that had been booked in its ballroom were either rescheduled or cancelled.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and in compliance with the government’s enhanced community quarantine directive, and for the safety of both our guests and employees, gaming and hotel operations of Winford Manila Resort & Casino are suspended until further notice,” announced Jeffrey Evora, President and Chief Operating Officer, WMRC on March 16.
“Prior to temporary closure, among the key measures taken by WMRC to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 included the deployment of safety and security team members with rubbing alcohol at all entrances that required guests and employees to sanitize their hands prior to entering the hotel.”
“In addition, temperature checks for all guests and employees via thermal scanner at all entrances of the property were implemented, while round-the-clock disinfection inside and outside the hotel and casino property were in effect,” explained Evora.
To reduce exposure, WMRC employees were put on forced leave effective March 16 with a skeletal workforce schedule in place until further notice as part of the government’s efforts to prevent further transmission of the virus.
In compliance with the directive of health authorities, WMRC assisted any remaining checked-in guests to return to their places of residence and ceased to accept further hotel bookings. Similarly, the free WMRC shuttle service provided for members that plies the streets of Manila and its neighboring cities was also made unavailable.
Still, with WMRC’s operations suspended indefinitely, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just recently, the DOH recently confirmed reports of the recovery and subsequent discharge of a Filipino Covid-19 case, bringing the total number of recovered patients in the Philippines to three.
“While this is encouraging news, we must continue to comply with the orders of health authorities for the greater good of our country,” said Evora. “For now, we will not be taking any reservations until further advisories from the government indicating that it is safe to do so. Winford Manila Resort & Casino is one with the nation and our health workers as we take on the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”