Extended Grocery Hours, Social Distancing in Wet Markets, Free Flow of Essential Goods

The government has just announced the extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) period to 30 April 2020, which means that the existing guidelines will continue. On 1 April 2020, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) issued Resolution No. 18 [“IATF Recommendations Relative to the Management of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation”].

The policy of allowing free flow of essential goods hits two birds with one stone — it avoids shortage of food/commodities and allows certain segments of the economy to continue generating income. The IATF reiterated, for the nth time, the policy of allowing the unhampered movement of all cargoes. Accordingly, the IATF enjoined Local Government Units (LGUs) and local health units NOT to issue orders that run counter to said directive, such as, but not limited to, requiring asymptomatic drivers and crews of cargo or service delivery vehicles to undergo mandatory fourteen (14)-day home quarantine. 

[See Persons Exempt from the Enhanced Community Quarantine: Consolidated List]

For this purpose, the IATF reaffirmed the directive contained in its Resolution No. 14, exempting such vehicles, with or without load, with not more than three (3) personnel onboard, provided that strict social distancing measures must be strictly observed, which may include, if necessary, the putting up of additional safe and humane seats or space in the vehicles.

[See Criminal Cases Against LGUs Turning Away Cargoes, Blocking Roads]

The IATF also strongly encouraged the extension of store operations to a maximum of twelve (12) hours, for the following establishments:

  • Supermarkets
  • Wet markets, public and private
  • Grocery stores
  • Agri-fishery supply stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Drug stores
  • Other retail establishments engaged in the business of selling basic necessities

The option to extend store hours is within the discretion of each store. In the event that the stores decide to extend store hours to accommodate more people, the LGUs are required to allow the extended hours, especially with curfews imposed by some LGUs. In Resolution No. 18, the IATF explicitly directed LGUs to allow such establishments to operate for a maximum of 12 hours.

For the operation of wet markets, the IATF encouraged LGUs to adopt reasonable schemes to ensure compliance with strict social distancing measures, such as, but not limited to, providing for specific daily schedules per sector, barangay, or purok, as the case may be. This supports the previous actions of LGUs, through the barangays, to provide specific hours in the Home Quarantine Pass

P&L Law

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