TURN down the music.
That’s one of the health and safety rules issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Tourism (DOT) so food establishments can help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Restaurant management must, “Ensure that music volume is kept to a minimum to discourage loud talking, which increases the likelihood of droplet transmission.” They must also “remind customers that face masks may only be removed while eating or drining.” Play areas and playgrounds are likewise prohibited on the restaurant premises.
The rules are contained in the agencies’ joint memorandum circular no. 21-02, signed on September 28, 2021, by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat. The health and safety guidelines cover food establishments such as restaurants, commissaries, cafeterias, cafes, lunchrooms, bistros, fast-food establishments, food courts, buffets, eateries, retail bakeries, mobile food trucks, and dining areas in hotels.
This developed as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) expanded the dining capacities of Metro Manila restaurants.
More dining capacity
As per IATF Resolution No. 141 dated September 30, 2021, indoor dining services of restaurants have been increased to 20 percent of their indoor seating capacity for fully vaccinated individuals. Establishments granted a Safety Seal Certificate by the government, may increase their indoor dining with an additional 10 percentage points, or for a total of 30 percent of seating capacity.
For al fresco or outdoor dining, restaurants can continue to offer 30 percent of their outdoor seating capacity. If they have a Safety Seal from the government, they also can increase their seating an additional 10 percentage points, or a total of 40 percent of their outdoor seating space.
“It is worth noting that the IATF backed the proposal for expanded dining capacity as 99 percent of tourism workers employed in DOT-accredited hotels and restaurants in Metro Manila have been inoculated against Covid-19,” said Romulo Puyat in a news statement.
She urged the dining public to patronize DOT-accredited establishments as the latter’s employees have already been vaccinated. “The operations of these restaurants are strictly monitored by the Department to ensure they strictly observe health and safety protocols,” she added.
As in previous dining guidelines, clear dividers are needed on tables in indoor dining setups. Restaurants must also ensure “adequate air exchange” via open windows, use of fans to improve air flow, installation and regular maintenance of air filtration devices, etc.
Restaurants also have to install hand-washing stations with hand soap or 70 percent isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, hands-free trash receptacles, implement a chair distance of 1 meter apart, have a screening area at entrances, use StaySafe app or any municipal app integrated with it, and ask guests to present their vaccination card for indoor dining. Buffet services are still to be managed where waitstaff will serve food to diners.
Households can dine together at one table, “provided they show proof of the same address,” and provided their table is kept a one-meter distance from other guests’ tables.
“Food establishments that fail to comply with the mandatory requirements will be given a warning and shall be endorsed to the local government unit health office.” After the warning, if food establishments are still non-compliant, they may be closed down in keeping with LGU rules and regulations. Reopening shall only be allowed when the establishments comply with health and safety regulations.