MANILA - Supermarkets, groceries, pharmacies and other establishments in the Philippines allowed to operate during the Luzon-wide lockdown period to contain the coronavirus outbreak must prioritize senior citizen customers, the trade ministry said Saturday.
In a memorandum circular, the Department of Trade and Industry said people aged 60 and above should be allowed immediate entry into such establishments, and assisted "ahead of the ordinary buyers on an 'as they come' basis."
Establishments are encouraged to designate a "Seniors Only" shopping hour, although the elderly customers may also choose "to make their purchases even beyond such designated hour."
Besides the usual Senior Citizens lane, an express lane for elderly customers purchasing 25 items or less is strongly urged in the same establishments.
The necessary notices for this privilege and assistance for senior citizens must be posted in public view, both in English and Tagalog.
The circular, signed by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and which took effect immediately, warned of sanctions under the Senior Citizens Act if any of the provisions are violated.
According to the World Health Organization, older people and those with such pre-existing medical conditions as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes, "appear to develop serious illness more often than others" when they acquire the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The WHO said that as of March 28, more than half a million COVID-19 cases have been recorded worldwide, with nearly 27,000 deaths.