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Malls warned of closure if they violate physical distancing protocols

Joint Task Force COVID Shield on Sunday warned that it would shut down malls that violate physical distancing protocols.

Task force commander Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar made the remark amid reports and social media posts about the failure of mall security managers to implement physical distancing during the first day of resumption of operations of some malls, especially in Metro Manila.

“As per instruction of the SILG [Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Año], we will not only facilitate the closure of these malls but will also initiate the filing of appropriate charges against the management,” Eleazar said in a statement.

He said all police commanders, in coordination with the Philippine National Police,  have been instructed to regularly monitor the movement of people inside the malls in their respective areas of responsibility in order to ensure that safety protocols such as social distancing and wearing of face masks are observed.

Eleazar added that police commanders were also directed to familiarize other protocols issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Department of Trade and Industry for the resumption of mall operations and other business establishments.

On Saturday, photos and videos of mall-goers violating physical distancing went viral on social media. Some netizens also narrated their experience on how precautionary measures were violated in malls.

The JTF COVID Shield earlier said police visibility will be intensified outside the malls in order to ensure safety protocols are followed.

“While part of our efforts is police visibility in the said establishments, it is not our job to guard them,” Eleazar said.

Eleazar also said they have already forwarded the names of the malls and other establishments where physical distancing measures were violated to the concerned police commanders.

“These commanders were instructed to warn the management of these malls and make sure that the warning be personally relayed to the mall management and other similar establishments,” he said.

“Other police commanders should also initiate meeting with the mall management to remind them of the protocol and warn them of the consequences if they would fail to observe the protocols,” Eleazar added.

Eleazar also urged the public to continue informing the JTF COVID Shield of the violations, not only inside the malls, but also in other  establishments for appropriate and immediate action.

Earlier, the Department of the Interior and the Local Government also warned malls that they will be ordered to close down by their respective local government units or the PNP if they do not strictly implement social distancing protocols and control the entry of people as prescribed by the omnibus guidelines issued by the IATF.

In a statement, Año said he has directed all LGUs and the Joint Task Force COVID-19 to inspect all malls and talk to its management regarding their observance of the DOH Minimum Health Standards and Quarantine Protocols.

“All Chiefs of Police and PCP Commanders should make rounds of all malls prior to opening and during operating hours. If the malls are not able to comply with the minimum health standards, the PNP can close the malls and charge the mall owners with violation of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act,” he said.

Año also reminded the public that the opening of some industries does not mean the PNP will be less strict in implementing the law. All PNP checkpoints will remain in areas under quarantine, he added.

Metro Manila, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga including Angeles City, Zambales and Laguna—areas previously under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)—shifted to a modified ECQ (MECQ) on Saturday.

Cebu City and Mandaue City were placed under ECQ while the rest of the country was put under general community quarantine (GCQ), which implement more relaxed restrictions. — Ma. Angelica Garcia/BM, GMA News