In light of a new surge of Covid-19 cases in the Philippines, strict new guidelines for the operation of DOT-accredited hotels and other accommodation establishments during the Holy Week has been issued by the Department of Tourism.
The interim operational guidelines issued on Sunday by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat came in the wake of the imposition of an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and four surrounding provinces for the seven-day period starting Monday, March 29.
In an advisory to all hotels, resorts, apartment hotels, motels and other such establishments in the country, the DOT effectively suspended the operation of “staycation” hotels for leisure guests within the so-called NCR Plus bubble, which covers Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan.
However, guests who are already billeted in these establishments by midnight on Sunday may continue to stay for the duration of their original booking. However, no new bookings will be allowed for the week.
Christine Ibarreta, president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), has assured tourism officials that guests with reservations within the ECQ period will be allowed to rebook without penalty provided they booked directly with the hotels.
“We would like to express our gratitude to the staycation hotels for allowing their clients to rebook without penalties as they support the goals of this administration for a healthy and safe tourism industry,” Puyat said.
The DOT has classified accommodation establishments into three, according to the nature of their operations. They are:
- Isolation facilities, for Covid-19 positive guests;
- Quarantine hotels, for individuals who must undergo quarantine, such as returning overseas Filipinos; foreign nationals allowed entry to the country; those unable to quarantine in their homes; and health workers who need accommodation near their place of work; and
- Regular hotels, which are neither isolation facilities nor quarantine hotels and includes hotels with issued Certificates of Authority to Operate for Staycation. In the advisory, regular hotels under ECQ and modified ECQ can accommodate only guests with long-term leases; locally stranded individuals or those transiting to their place of residence; and authorized persons outside of residence (APOR) pursuant to their official duties.
The DOT advised these accredited establishments to strictly enforce the minimum health and safety guidelines and quarantine protocols or face sanctions which include fines, suspension and the cancellation of accreditation.
Under ECQ and MECQ, only a skeleton workforce and in-house staff with free accommodations within the premises shall be allowed. Regardless of quarantine status, ancillary facilities and services like restaurants, cafes, bars, gyms, spas, swimming pools, and conference or function halls are prohibited unless permitted by the Department of Health or the Bureau of Quarantine to prepare packed meals for staff and guests or for take-out and delivery to the public.
Quarantine hotels are required to implement measures to ensure that there would be no co-mingling of quarantine guests and health workers, including the designation of separate floor or wings, elevators and passageways.
In areas under the less strict general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ, regular hotels may operate ancillary facilities subject to minimum health standards and issuances of the IATF, the Department of Trade and Industry and other relevant government agencies.
The guidelines will be effective from the first hour of Monday, March 29, until midnight on April 4 or for the duration of the ECQ period declared by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19 in the NCR Plus area. The IATF re-imposed ECQ effective Sunday as a new surge saw close to 10,000 new cases on Saturday, a record since the pandemic hit last year.
In its latest resolution dated March 27, the Inter-Agency Task for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) placed Metro Manila and the four nearby provinces under ECQ, citing the surge in new Covid-19 cases, including the deadlier and more infectious UK and South African variants. As of March 26, health authorities had recorded a total of 109,018 active cases throughout the country.
“The continued implementation of proactive measures and restrictions must be put in place to slow down the surge in COVID-19 cases, stop further spread of variants, buy time for the health system to cope, and to protect more lives,” the task force said in its latest resolution.