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The IATF pushing to reopen cinemas says a lot about their pandemic response

Miss going to the movies? We do, too. It’s been almost a year since a lot of us have last seen the big screen (except for y’all who got to try the drive-in cinemas).

Closing establishments like cinemas for a long time has affected the economy, so the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) recently released a resolution addressing that. In Resolution No. 99, the task force recommended that mass gatherings be relaxed to 50 percent of total capacity, and that recreational establishments like cinemas, arcades, libraries, museums and theme parks be reopened starting Feb. 15. 

If you think about it, 50 percent of the capacity of a cinema is still a lot of people sitting for at least two hours in one confined space, especially if you picture a typical mall cinema. It raises a lot of questions, some already posed by Metro Manila mayors and even Vice President Leni Robredo.

News anchor Pinky Webb also interviewed Cabinet Secretary and IATF chairperson Karlo Nograles on CNN’s “The Source” to clarify some things about the resolution.

There are several interesting things about this exchange:

  • As brought up by Webb on the show, the resolution has indicated an exact start date despite Nograles saying it’s still up for discussion with the mayors.
  • Nograles justified the reopening by citing that cinemas in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) have already been operating at 50 percent capacity and “so far, we have not seen any super-spreader events in MGCQ areas.” 
  • He said the IATF, represented by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, met with one mayor (whom he didn’t name when Webb asked) regarding the matter.
  • He assumed that the long weekend was ample time to finalize the guidelines, which apparently also needed input from the Department of Health.
  • Webb brought up the “confusing” wording on the resolution: It indicated Feb. 15, yet also said “subject to the issuance of implementing guidelines.”

“We can’t afford to go on like this forever. Alam mo, it’s 2021. It’s been one year since the country’s first coronavirus case. We can’t afford to let it be the same as far as the economy is concerned,” Nograles said.

The concern for the economy is valid; a lot of people have lost their jobs. But this move by the IATF also says a lot about the administration’s pandemic response. It appears as if the burden of preventing a super-spreader falls on the establishments themselves. 

“One year [of] battling this virus and I think people are already aware of the risks and how to manage and control them,” Nograles said. Why does it seem like a lot of important matters are left at the mercy of these decision-makers’ assumptions?

But he’s right: It’s been a year, sure, yet how come we’re far from recovering from the virus? How come, even without reopening these recreational establishments, we still have thousands of COVID-19 cases a day?

Yes, we do miss going to the movies, too. But is it worth the risk? Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’re keener on enjoying your movies at home, we gotchu: classic films? Asian rom-coms? Post-V-Day horror fest? Take your pick.


Read more:
Drive-in theaters are back and one’s letting you in real soon
If you miss movie dates, a new drive-in theater’s opening soon
Science says watching movies in the cinema counts as a light workout


Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash


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