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Local governments issue guidelines for ‘new normal’

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Metro Manila might be inching its way toward life after lockdown, but a spate of new guidelines issued by different cities for businesses showed that operations would be far from normal.

The local government of San Juan City, one of the country’s earliest new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hot spots, released a list of minimum standards on Sunday that businesses must adhere to before they could reopen under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) starting on May 16.

Similar to guidelines released by Quezon City, employers will be required to pay for COVID-19 testing for employees using Food and Drug Administration-approved testing kits. Failure to comply could lead to their business permits being suspended or revoked outright.

The testing requirement in Quezon City applied to businesses with 10 or more employees, while all establishments in San Juan were covered by the directive. Workers who tested positive in San Juan would be subjected to further testing at the City Health Office, also at their employers’ cost.

Other requirements in San Juan included workplace disinfection every two hours, provision of free transportation for employees and reconfigured work spaces that would allot for a minimum 1-meter distance between people.

Protective gear like face masks and hygiene essentials like sanitizers and doormat disinfectant would also be required for the use of workers at any business opening in San Juan under the MECQ.

In both San Juan and Quezon City, establishments were also ordered to designate a specific safety officer to ensure that all COVID-19-related guidelines were strictly implemented.

Quezon City, which has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, has allowed tricycles to operate during the MECQ to ease the strain on employees who were often forced to walk—at times for hours — to get to work during the lockdown.

Private establishments were also encouraged to hire public buses, jeepneys and other high-occupancy vehicles for the exclusive use of their employees as a point-to-point service.

The city, like the local government of Pasig, has encouraged residents to use bicycles as a mode of last-mile transport with Mayor Joy Belmonte asking barangays to set up free parking spaces for bikes.

Residents traveling to and from permitted establishments may also avail of the city’s free shuttle program.

In Marikina City, mass testing would also be applied to returning workers. Unlike in Quezon City and San Juan, however, the local government would shoulder both testing and treatment for any employee found to be positive for COVID-19.

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