What Businesses Will Operate During Lockdown?
The “community quarantine” officially began yesterday, on March 15, and we’re only really feeling its effects now. While consumers are witnessing the temporary closure of their favorite establishments, the business sector will be hit even harder as they forgo one month of business and income. It’s becoming clear that no one (or no business) will be spared by COVID-19.
In a memo released by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Inter-Agency Task Force assigned to stopping the spread of COVID-19 has laid out all the guidelines for business operations, and lack thereof, for the duration of the quarantine.
Here’s what’s going to happen:
Malls Partially Closed
After much discussion, all major malls in Metro Manila have agreed to cease all mall operations from March 16 to April 14. These include all Metro Manila malls under Robinsons Malls, SM Supermalls, Ayala Malls, Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, and Vista Malls.
However, select stores that offer necessities under each mall will be open to the public. These include supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, health clinics, bookstores, hardware stores, and select restaurants that offer takeout.
According to the memo, BPOs will be allowed to operate.
Select Businesses to Operate
Under DTI’s memo, the following establishments will be allowed to operate: manufacturing, retail, services, construction, and agriculture—granted that they follow social distancing guidelines, such as teaching staff to work a meter apart, encouraging handwashing, discouraging sharing or touching same objects, etc.
Meanwhile, all other industries that do not exclusively require in-office work are highly encouraged to let employees work from home. DTI is also encouraging the reduction of workdays and hours, rotation of workers, and forced leaves if absolutely necessary. General assemblies, large meetings, conferences, and outdoor events are to be canceled.
As for businesses that need employees on site or in the office, they are encouraged to provide staff with temporary housing in Metro Manila for the duration of the lockdown.
Entertainment Businesses to Close
However, other industries will not be as lucky. This applies to all leisure- and entertainment-based businesses that require social interaction or public gatherings. These types of businesses have been strictly prohibited from operating by the DTI.
These include bars, clubs, theaters, art galleries, concerts, casinos, bingo halls, and the like, which are to shut down temporarily for one month.
Without one month of business, or with one month of reduced business, all industries will feel the deep impact of COVID-19's economic effects. As such, DTI stated, “Lessors and owners of these business spaces shall share the responsibility by waiving the corresponding rental fees and charges of stores that were closed during the one-month period of General Community Quarantine, as a result of this Memorandum Circular.”
This means that lessors are required to decrease or completely waive the rent of business spaces from March 16 to April 14. As the memo uses the word “share,” it’s not yet how much of rent lessors are required to cover.
eCommerce Encouraged, Response Plans Required
To make up for lost business, DTI is recommending retail establishments and all establishments where eCommerce is applicable to transfer their business operations online in the meantime. This means online shopping, food delivery, online consultancy, etc. Cargo will be unaffected by the community quarantine, and delivery platforms will be allowed to operate within each region.
Considering the health hazard COVID-19 poses to consumers and personnel, DTI is requiring every business to prepare an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. This includes adopting measures like social distancing, hand-washing, providing personnel with alcohol and soap, and putting a “tracing” plan in place in case a member of staff turns out to be a positive COVID-19 case.