5 Things we learned from the first few days of MECQ

A few takeaways
by Drei Laurel | May 18, 2020
PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño

And just like that, Metro Manila is no longer under an enhanced community quarantine period (ECQ)—we’re now in a modified enhanced community quarantine period (MECQ) which, if we’re being honest, is almost the same thing.

The biggest difference? More businesses have opened—including more stores inside shopping malls and, finally, automotive dealerships—and more people are now allowed to return to work. The shift to MECQ has so far shown mixed results, but at the very least we were able to pick up a few things over the weekend:

1) The crowd varies depending on the mall

Contrary to what the images on social media suggest, not all malls in Metro Manila are packed with Pinoys eager to satisfy their lakwatsa fix. It really depends on where they’re situated and how many stores are open inside.

Some malls naturally drew in larger crowds due to their central locations and having more stores to visit inside. Others, such as The Podium and Shangri-La Plaza in Ortigas, which opened fewer stores and normally cater to higher-end customers, were relatively free of shoppers. We know, because we visited them over the weekend in search of a light bulb (typing in the dark is hard).

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2) Do images of traffic really tell the whole story?

You may have come across photos showing traffic jams littered across Metro Manila over the weekend, supposedly caused by a deluge of motorists eager to go out after two months stuck at home. While there’s still no way of telling exactly how many cars were on the road when we shifted into MECQ, it’s likely the images were taken along major routes with checkpoints in place.

All checkpoints require motorists to slow down, with some requiring drivers to present identification temperature checks or submit to a temperature check. What’s more, some of these checkpoints essentially turn into choke points by forcing several lanes to converge into just one. This is done to give authorities an easier time managing the flow of vehicles.

3) We still haven’t grasped the concept of physical distancing

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the minimum safe distance between people during this pandemic is one meter (or three feet) apart. By the looks of photos circulating online, a lot of people still don’t know how to go about the entire physical distancing thing.

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It isn’t just the literal distance between individuals, either. Many people still insist on wearing their mask under their nose, or worse, on their chin. Many insist on bringing along companions during shopping runs even if it’s unnecessary. If people continue to ignore physical distancing guidelines set by authorities, the government many have no other choice but to clamp down on movement again.

4) The dealership experience will never be the same

Planning to buy a car now that dealerships across the country are opening their doors again? You may be in for a surprise. Most, if not all, local car manufacturers are already implementing measures meant to usher in the new normal: Temperature checks, routine disinfection procedures, enforcement of social distancing guidelines.

Many companies now require customers to book appointments with a dealership prior to a visit, whether he or she is buying a car of taking a vehicle in for service. Under current circumstances, you can forget about bringing your entire family to check out a car at a showroom, too. This is definitely going to take some getting used to.

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5) Long-proposed measures to improve transport are getting accelerated

Apparently, all it takes to get the government talking about implementing bicycle lanes is a deadly respiratory virus. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has announced plans to rearrange lanes along EDSA, with innermost lanes going towards buses and outermost ones going towards cyclists. This is one change we wouldn’t mind greeting us under the new normal.

Do you have any other takeaways from the past few days under MECQ? Let us know what they are in the comments.

For more of our stories on the ongoing crisis, click here. For the latest news and updates on COVID-19, check out reportr.world/covid-19.

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PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño
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