Philippine reopening of theaters, arcades stalls amid debate on new COVID-19 risk

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Movie theaters, video game arcades and other leisure businesses closed since last year in most of the Philippines got approval to reopen Monday but haven’t yet done so because many mayors opposed the action, fearing it will bring new coronavirus infections.

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The easing of restrictions in the capital and other regions under moderate restrictions came after Manila was hit by one of the worst pandemic-wrought recessions in the region.

The government also starting Monday will let larger crowds inside places of worship in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, allowing 50 percent of their capacity from 30 percent.

Most mayors under the Metro Manila Development Authority expressed apprehension over the reopening of cinemas and video game arcades. Philippine officials said mayors and health officials should draw rules to ensure safety amid the easing of quarantine restrictions in more public areas, including museums, libraries, parks and historical sites.

“This is a very problematic proposition. This might bring a surge in our COVID cases,” Marikina city Mayor Marcelino Teodoro told ABS CBN News, adding mayors in the capital region were not consulted by the national government on the reopening of cinemas.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno told The Associated Press by telephone that he and other mayors would meet government officials later Monday to discuss the reopening of cinemas, which he welcomed.

The Philippines has reported nearly 550,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 11,500 deaths, the second highest in Southeast Asia.

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