The Inter-Agency Task Force against Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the health protocols for dine-in operations in restaurants, following the findings of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez and National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on the dine-in demonstrations last Sunday, 31 May 2020.
The two officials, joined by Congressman Wes Gatchalian, visited McDonald’s, Shakey’s, and Tim Ho Wan in SM North EDSA to check their compliance with the Guidelines on Minimum Health Protocol for Dine-in Restaurants and Fastfood Establishments. The guidelines were provided to the three restaurants prior to the visit so that they could prepare accordingly.
“We were very satisfied with the dine-in demonstrations of the three restaurants since they showed that the safety protocols are being implemented and proved that they are indeed doable. A lot of them exerted effort to demonstrate that the transmission can be minimized, if not totally prevented, while still having dine-in operations,” Sec. Lopez said.
He added, “Together with the IATF, through NTF Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez, as well as with the coordination of Congress, through Congressman Wes Gatchalian, the government stresses the balancing of reopening of the economy with health concerns. Once approved, these will be disseminated to all restaurants and food service with Dine-in operations.”
For Rep. Gatchalian, chairman of the House Committee on Trade and Industry, the visit was a great opportunity to hear out the concerns of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as they have been the ones heavily hit by the pandemic.
“As we resume the sessions in Congress tomorrow, June 1, we will continue to discuss the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), in order to help MSMEs by providing them financial loans,” he explained.
The congressman added, “It has been saddening to hear that in our discussion with the President of SM Supermalls, Mr. Steven Tan, only 20% of the stores are open. However, with the shift to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) tomorrow, their projection is that around 60% of stores will open. Once we enter the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), it is possible that this number will further increase.”
On the other hand, Sec. Galvez was pleased that the level of protocols even surpassed the minimum protocols provided, and these can prevent transmission. He noted specific best practices in these establishments, such as having designated safety officers, regular alarm systems indicating the time for sanitizing, as well as infomercials showing health reminders.
Based on the guidelines on minimum health protocols, restaurants must install the following equipment and systems:
- properly sanitized tables and chairs (after each customer’s use);
- distancing of tables and chairs to at least one (1) meter apart on all sides;
- face-to-face seating allowed only with proper dividers;
- visible floor markings for guidance of clients in queueing, preferably color-coded;
- proper ventilation in the establishment; visibility and accessibility of sanitizing equipment and tools;
- provision of food menus per table;
- contactless order-taking;
- covering pieces of furniture made of porous materials with plastic for ease of sanitation;
- clean trash bins for used papers and used tissue;
- clean washrooms and toilets with sufficient soap, water, tissue, and toilet paper;
- and disinfection of high-risk areas, such as order and bar counters every 30 minutes.
The guidelines also mandate the set-up of service stations:
- designated area for take-away/pick-up;
- separate handwashing sink for kitchen staff and dine-in customers;
- contactless drive-thru counters;
- and, the closure of play areas.