MANILA - Social distancing protocols were not violated when malls resumed partial operation over the weekend under a modified lockdown, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Tuesday.
Lopez and his team from the Department of Trade and Industry conducted an ocular inspection on several malls on Sunday and found that alleged social distancing violations in some malls were not true.
“Nagulat rin ako, saka naawa rin ako. Actually, walang tao,” he said on ANC’s Headstart.
Lopez said not all stores in malls opened shop last week.
“About 20 percent are open. 'Di lahat nag open kahit sinabi na natin puwede nang mag-open ibang retail shops and those opened, 'yung dami ng tao talagang konti lang,” he said, adding that it was a far cry from the usual Sunday crowd on pre-COVID days.
Photos showing people flocking to malls were not during the reopening of these establishments, the DTI chief said.
“I guess sa photos na ipinadala sa atin, dalawa fake news d’yan 'yung ipinakita during SAP (Special Amelioration Program) distribution in a province na ginamit lang 'yun outside of the mall. The malls were closed then, mali 'yung ipinapakitang pictures.”
“Then 'yung iba naman, I think kinunan just right before pumasok 'yung mga tao so s'yempre naipon 'yan,” he said.
The DTI chief said malls complied with health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 like providing alcohol and sanitizers and providing social distancing guides to mall-goers.
"We were pleasantly surprised also, sinunod 'yung mga arrows, so many signages. May mga mall guards din sila directing people," he said.
He also explained that the air conditioning at the malls were set at 27 degrees to prevent people from staying longer inside the establishment.
“It’s not really that cold because the intention is for people to just do their errands, to buy the things they need to buy and then leave already,” he said.
The government earlier released guidelines for malls, which are meant to discourage the public from loitering. These include regulating the use of airconditioning, implementing physical distancing, and the removal of free internet connection, among others.
The country's giant shopping centers were temporarily shut as Luzon was placed on lockdown beginning March 17 to contain the pandemic.