HOW THE NEW NORMAL LOOKS LIKE Second of five parts

Physical distancing and wearing of face masks should still be in effect in food establishments even as Iloilo City gradually lifts the enhanced community quarantine amid the COVID-19 crisis. This is one of the suggestions of a group of UP Visayas professors who are advising the local government on its exit plan for the ECQ. (Arnold Almacen/CMO)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

Going to the malls and dining out with family and friends will not be the same once the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is gradually lifted.

This is the scenario presented in the exit plan proposed by the group of UP Visayas Professors Maria Elisa Baliao, Rhodella Ibabao, Hanny John Mediodia, Cristabel Parcon, Juhn Cris Espia and Vicente Balinas to the Iloilo City government.

The group presented the plan to Mayor Jerry Treñas to give the local government unit an idea on how to lift restrictions to public movement and trade “while maintaining physical distancing measures and ease in contact tracing.”

“The suggested actions are based on the experiences of other countries who have started their gradual exit from lockdown or have adopted general community quarantine measures as well as on online reports and informal consultations with sector/industry specific individuals who are preparing for the lifting of the lockdown after April 30, 2020,” according to the plan.

One of the sectors affected by the ECQ are malls, supermarkets, groceries, and convenience stores because of the limited number of customers who can shop and restricted business hours as well.

Actually, major malls closed shop in the meantime while the ECQ is in effect.

But will it be back to normal for these establishments come May 1? No it won’t.

The UPV exit plan suggested the following measures to ensure social distancing in supermarkets, groceries, and convenience stores:

– special hours for health workers, senior citizens, pregnant women and persons with disabilities. It is suggested that they dedicate the first hour of business for these people. They should issue number cards (or something similar) to customers who wait in line for efficiency and to provide discipline in the crowd. They should have a policy of NO MASK NO ENTRY. They should not allow customers without quarantine pass to enter the store.

-All supermarkets, groceries and convenience stores should have a one-way aisles system by putting markers on the floor to direct customers. They should put up a signage requesting customers to have a grocery list ready because of the one-way aisles system.

-All supermarkets, groceries and convenience stores should also install panels between customers and cashiers at check-out.



Under the plan, malls can open but only for limited hours in the meantime, like 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, not all mall shops can operate yet to minimize crowding inside the establishments.

Among the mall shops that will remain closed in the meantime are (1) spa and massage, (2) derma and dental clinics; (3) nail and waxing salons; (4) hair salons; (5) children’s play houses; (6) arcades; (7) KTVs; (8) Internet cafes; (9) medical laboratories and (10) cinemas.

Employees, tenants, and customers of the mall should wear cloth face masks at all times and the mall should have a “NO MASK NO ENTRY” sign at entrances.

Malls must ensure physical distancing at entrances by putting floor markers on the pavement outside the entrance to guide customers.

Foot baths should also be installed in mall entrances. However, only customers with quarantine pass should be allowed inside malls.

Each store inside malls should develop ways of limiting the number of customers inside at a time, like putting queuing markers that will direct customers where to stand and wait.

Mall supermarkets should have a one-way aisles system by putting markers on the floor to direct customers. They should put up a signage requesting customers to have a grocery list ready because of the one-way aisles system. They should also install panels between customers and cashiers at check-out, according to the UPV professors’ exit plan.

One busy area inside malls are food courts.

The exit plan suggested that food courts mark alternating tables to remind customers to leave room between themselves and others.

Food stalls should be ready to cater to customers who are going to buy food for take-out. They should also put floor markers in front of their cashiers’ counter to guide customers where to stand while waiting for their turn to pay.

Department stores, another crowded area inside malls, should place floor or queueing markers in front of cashiers’ counter to guide customers.

The same markers should also be placed in front of automated teller machines, kiosks and takeout counters.



The exit plan also proposed measures to ensure physical distancing in casual dining restaurants:

– limit number of diners within the restaurant by ensuring a distance of at least one meter between tables or different groups of diners, although related diners (e.g family members, couples) can be seated together without staggered seating;

– reduce the number of people gathering outside the restaurant by putting in place queue management solutions. These include taking down diner details and calling them when there are seats available.

To reduce the number of people who will go out to dine, the team suggested that the city government encourage restaurant owners who have not yet tied up with third party food service deliveries to try this new platform.

“This can help restaurants increase their income while limiting customer dine-in. This will also help food service deliveries to expand their coverage and hire more people to be part of these food service deliveries. Furthermore, this will help ensure physical distancing,” according to the exit plan.