COVID-19 task force defers reopening of cinemas in Metro Manila

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 15) — The country's COVID-19 task force is postponing its initial order to reopen movie theaters after pushback from Metro Manila mayors.

Inter-Agency Task Force spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said the enforcement of their resolution can only happen once operational guidelines have been crafted by local government units. He added the earliest cinemas can reopen in Metro Manila is on March 1 — if the plan pushes through.

"Ang status po ang pagbubukas ng sinehan, kung matutuloy po, ay Marso 1. Kinakailangan po ipagpatuloy ang consultations at kinakailangan bumuo ng guidelines ang lokal na pamahalaan bago magbukas ang sinehan," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: Cinemas will open on March 1, if it pushes through. We need to continue the consultations and LGUs need to come up with guidelines before it can reopen.]

All 17 local chief executives in Metro Manila opposed the IATF resolution allowing cinemas, arcades, and other leisure businesses to reopen starting Monday in areas under general community quarantine. Metro Manila Council Chairman Edwin Olivarez said they will defer the reopening of cinemas since the airconditioned and enclosed space can lead to a spike of COVID-19 cases in the capital region, which remains as the epicenter of the virus in the country.

The Department of Health also said concerned government agencies will release guidelines on how to ventilate theaters to ensure proper air circulation. Health experts advised against staying in enclosed spaces for long periods of time after growing evidence that COVID-19 infection can occur from airborne exposure to the virus.

“They consulted with an epidemiologist so that they can provide this ventilation requirements for ventilation, specifically in enclosed spaces para lang makapag-prevent ng infection [so they can prevent infections],” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a separate briefing.