By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
Top honchos of the House leadership have introduced a proposed legislation that would make physical distancing and wearing of face masks mandatory amid the threat of the coronavirus in the Filipino society.
Principally authored by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and seven other top officials of the Lower House, House Bill No. 6623 seeks to impose a new norm in the society until such time that a vaccine against the deadly COVID-19 virus will be invented and released in the market.
The House leaders admitted that “a ‘new normal’ is dawning upon the world and our country” and the government need to draw “comparable measure for guidance and possible, critical adoption” of an alternative paradigm to prevent the spread of the dreaded diseases.
“This proposed New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020 draws from the comparative experience of countries abroad in order to build on the existing measures established by the Philippine Government’s Inter-Agency Task Force Against Covid-19 as well as other measures instituted by local government units that have all served to mitigate the effects of the global pandemic amongst the Filipino people,” HB 6623’s explanatory note read.
HB 6623 requires the institution and establishment of “standards and protocols” that would simultaneously protect the vulnerable from the disease and prevent transmission from asymptomatic or untested carriers of the virus, “while ensuring the restoration of livelihood opportunities and sources of income for all, especially the country’s poor.”
Based on HB 6623, the standards for “New Normal” includes the “mandatory” wearing of facemasks in public places and workplaces—with corresponding “appropriate penalties for violations.”
Physical and social distancing “measured at least one but preferably two meters between individuals in all public spaces” will be also mandatory as well as temperature checks in all enclosed and semi-enclosed areas—including open areas in the locality where two or more people shall be gathered.
Hand washing/sanitizing stations will be also required “in places frequented by the public or those in high-touch areas.”
Aside from Cayetano, among the co-authors of the proposal include Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Camarines Sur), Loren Legarda (Antique), and Paolo Duterte (Davao City); House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez (Leyte), House committee on appropriations chait Eric Yap (ACT-CIS Party-List), Committee on Public Accounts chair Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-List) and Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chair Jonathan Sy-Alvarado (Bulacan).
The authors stressed the measure will prepare and educate the Filipinos “for life after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions” and to adapt to the new norms of physical distancing.
“It institutionalizes a new way of life after the Enhanced Community Quarantine and serves as a guide to the public,” the explanatory noted read.