Coping with COVID, ECQ and MECQ

Published September 6, 2021, 12:07 AM

by Jaime Laya

Wala Lang

Metro Manila is under MECQ (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine) until Sept. 7. With millions of Metro Manilans living and commuting cheek by jowl, let’s pray MECQ works and no further extensions are needed.

Meanwhile, gatherings are not allowed and one can jog, run, or bike only within one’s barangay or subdivision. There’s curfew from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. and you must stay home if you’re over 65 or under 18, or if you’re sick or pregnant.

Allowed to operate at full or partial capacity are hospitals, government, grocery stores, pharmacies, markets, banks, media companies, BPOs, construction companies, internet sellers, property lessors, and other enterprises providing essential goods and services.

Activities considered less important are prohibited under Section (3) 5 of the IATF Omnibus Guidelines for the Implementation of Community Quarantine. These include bowling alleys, outdoor sports courts, indoor sports courts including gyms and swimming pools, venues for meetings and conferences. Unless there has been an amendment, however, personal care services, including beauty parlors, and indoor dine-in services and al fresco dining are allowed after Aug. 31, 2021 per IATF Resolution No. 134 s. 2021 dated Aug. 19, 2021.

WIDE SPACES AND OPEN SKIES The veranda and swimming pool of Makati (Sports) Club, Inc.

While these activities are obviously less vital than ensuring food, shelter, and clothing, a large number of men and women depend on them for a living. Rather than blanket prohibition, selective implementation would speed up economic recovery and reduce hardship among many.

The Association of Non-Profit Clubs, Inc. (ANPC) sent an appeal to IATF on behalf of its 17 member clubs, citing the following:

  • Clubs employ thousands of low-income earners who even in normal times live hand-to-mouth—waiters, cooks, housekeepers, trainers and ballboys, caddies, umbrella bearers, gardeners, sports masseurs, as well as personnel of service providers for laundry, security, janitors, and so on.
  • The lowest earners have been the worst victims of the pandemic. They are the most vulnerable, doing no-work no-pay jobs, first to be laid off or asked to report part-time. Commuters from Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan have little take-home pay after bus fare.
  • In return for their monthly dues, members can only order take-out food for which they pay anyway. Many members have therefore stopped paying dues or let go of their memberships. Furthermore, food takeout revenue does not even cover kitchen cost.
  • Repair and maintenance (forget about capital expenditures) suffer with reduced income. All the while, clubs pay taxes and provide emergency assistance to workers when they or family members get sick or die.
  • Clubs have been the first to be closed and the last to be allowed to open. After 17 months of hardship, they and even their club employers may not last much longer.
  • Sports clubs, country clubs, and golf clubs are safe and are not virus spreaders. Indeed, they are safer than government and private offices, construction companies, BPOs, and manufacturers, where the work environment is often enclosed and more risky than the clubs’ spacious and open-air sports facilities.

I would add that COVID-19 victims are easily fatigued, find it difficult to breathe, and can’t taste or smell. I doubt if they can even think of swimming, playing tennis, or eating out.

Most club members have been vaccinated by this time and all who enter—members, employees, registered guests—have to pass a temperature and possibly other checks. Once in, all they do is eat, hold meetings, and exercise—golf in golf clubs and in others, tennis, squash, badminton, bowling, swimming, billiards, gym, jog. No outsiders are allowed except registered guests. Risky walk-in strangers are verboten. With social distancing and other safety protocols, members, and staff are protected. Clubs have to cope not only with Covid-19 but also with all the Qs. Allowing them to operate will help relieve hardship and misery among thousands—workers and their dependents alike—without being a menace to public health.

Disclosure:  Your columnist is president of Makati (Sports) Club, Inc. and member of a couple of other clubs.

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