House subpanel approves 'Better Normal' bill in workplace, public spaces

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 27) — A subpanel of the House of Representatives’ Defeat COVID-19 Committee approved on Wednesday a measure establishing regulations for a "better normal" in the workplace and public spaces.

The committee's New Normal cluster approved House Bill 6623 or the "Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities, and Public Spaces Act of 2020," which includes safety measures such as the mandatory wearing of masks and observance of physical distancing in public.

It also imposes mandatory temperature checks, contact-tracing systems, establishment of government-operated quarantine facilities, and other existing measures to help monitor individuals who are at risk or have contracted COVID-19.

The bill requires companies to submit a workplace management plan to local government units detailing how many employees are allowed to work in the office and the overall strategy for the reporting of the workforce to minimize the risk of catching the virus.

Restaurants are limited to delivery and take-out options, while dine-in services will be gradually allowed, it says.

Schools will remain suspended until further notice "without prejudice to the academic freedom and levels of autonomy," provided that students will not be unreasonably penalized for their inability to participate in online classes due to issues in connectivity or availability of gadgets, it also says.

Under the bill, government agencies will also be required to create online platforms so the public can do their transactions on the internet.

The subpanel earlier upgraded via its virtual technical working group hearing the title of the measure, initially dubbed as the "New Normal" bill.

If enacted into law, HB 6623 will be effective for three years, or shorter if the national government declares that the threat of the virus is over.

The bill is set to be approved by the Defeat COVID-19 Committee on Thursday before it will be tabled for plenary deliberations.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.