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Anti-Covid partitions will stay–DTI chief Lopez

DTI chief Ramon Lopez

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) underscored the need for proper ventilation in restaurants and other dining outlets, and other workplaces, as a means to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes Covid-19.

In a Viber message, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told the BusinessMirror it is “important to emphasize in workplaces now VENTILATION.” He  made this in response to a study that indicated ventilation would only be efficient depending on where room partitions are located, where air and exhaust vents are placed, and the source of the contamination, i.e., viruses. (“Effect of internal partitioning on indoor air quality of rooms with mixing ventilation” https://bit.ly/2ROqoSB)

As such, he said acrylic or plastic barriers which were installed by restaurants for their indoor dining facilities, for example, “[are still] needed [to prevent] droplets.” He emphasized, “The small partitions deflect droplets. With the new studies showing aerosols, good ventilation and air filtration and/or strong air exhaust are key.”

Lopez emphasized, “Outdoor dining is the better business model, with mask, hugas (hand washing), and iwas (social distancing).

In a bid to promote safe indoor dining, many restaurants installed acrylic dividers or partitions to separate guests from each other and ensure Covid-19 infections are contained.

Johnlu Koa, founder and CEO of The French Baker, earlier told this paper his company spent some P35,000 per branch to upgrade to government-imposed health and safety standards for restaurants. This includes the installation of clear acrylic panels to allow face-to-face dining, which costs about P1,500 per panel. (See, “Branded restos, popular food chains secure DOT accreditation,” in the BusinessMirror, July 1, 2020.)

Even the US Centers for Disease Control recommended the “[installation of] physical barriers, sneeze guards, and partitions, particularly in areas, where it is difficult to remain at least six feet apart. Barriers can be useful in restaurant kitchens and at cash registers, host stands, or food pickup areas where maintaining physical distance to at least six feet is difficult.”

Leisure travel from NCR+?

Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases was expected to act on Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat’s proposal on Monday for the resumption of travel from National Capital Region Plus to destinations under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ)  status. NCR Plus includes Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna, which are currently under GCQ “with heightened restrictions.”

“[At] every [IATF] meeting I try to push for the easing of travel restrictions, because there are so many in the tourism industry who continue to be out of work,” she explained to this paper. She said she would also propose age restrictions be lifted, “but perhaps we will require test-before-travel, so the Department of Health will approve [my proposal].”

Romulo Puyat was in Baguio City over the weekend to inspect the readiness of several tourist sites in the country’s traditional summer capital, such as Camp John Hay, the Illi-Likha Artist Village, Rose Garden, Burnham Park, Mirador Hill, Haight’s Place, Sakura Park, and the Northern Blossoms Farm.

The DOT chief hoped that NCR Plus residents will already be allowed to visit Baguio City by June 1, although she acknowledged, “Many from the NCR have already been going up to Baguio [despite the GCQ lockdown].” Baguio is under MGCQ.

Romulo Puyat also turned over P30.6 million in cash assistance to 6,131 displaced tourism workers in Baguio City under the DOT and Department of Labor and Employment joint program funded by the Bayanihan 2 Law.

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