DTI to allow restaurants to accept more dine-in customers starting July 21

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 14) – Restaurants can start accepting more customers dining in their establishments starting July 21, with the Department of Trade and Industry also suggesting to extend curfew hours to allow longer operations.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Tuesday that new rules will allow restaurants operating in general community quarantine areas to open more tables to diners for up to 50 percent their original capacity, higher than the 30 percent limit in place since June 21.

For those in modified GCQ areas, the ceiling is raised to 75 percent capacity starting next Tuesday. This means only one in every four seats in the restaurant will be left vacant, although still subject to social distancing rules.

The gradual easing matches what was done for barbershops and salons, which have been allowed to offer more services depending on their location. Personal care services like facials, nail spas, and waxing have been allowed in MGCQ areas. 

Lopez said this is in response to petitions from business owners to accommodate more diners and allow them to at least break even. Restaurants were shut down since the lockdowns started in mid-March, with operations limited to takeout and delivery.

​The easing of rules comes as infections saw a recent spike especially in Metro Manila, which is attributed to the relaxation of restrictions.

The DTI chief also said during the government's Laging Handa briefing that restaurants recorded a 90–100 percent compliance with the minimum health standards required by authorities, such as the requirement of masks, temperature checks, health declaration forms for customers, and adequate spacing or barriers separating diners and other tables. He added that some stores even impose additional safety protocols, based on the daily monitoring done by the agency for the past month.

Lopez also appealed to local governments to consider relaxing curfew hours to midnight to allow restaurants to open up to 10 or 11 p.m. to accommodate more diners and recover profits. He said this will also add to workers' salaries especially for dinner time, which usually accounts for at least 40 percent of a store's daily sales.

There are 57,006 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country as of Monday, with 20,371 recoveries and 1,599 deaths. Despite the steady rise in infections, authorities said the economy can no longer afford to return to lockdowns.

RELATED: More hospitals in Metro Manila report 100% utilization of COVID 19-dedicated beds