Malls have reopened, but few people are going in—very cautiously, at that—and only to buy essentials. They don’t linger.
Marlet Salazar, founder of the startup Backend News, has been frequenting Walter Mart in Quezon City for groceries. The queue outside the supermarket follows social distancing, and everyone is required to wear masks. But once inside the store, people shop like there is no pandemic, she said.
Often she finds herself reprimanding other shoppers for needlessly touching her cart.
Salazar patiently waits for the line to the cashier to thin out before paying for her groceries. When her hands touch grocery items, she doesn’t touch her cell phone until she’s washed her hands back home. If she has been out longer than necessary, she takes a shower right away when she gets home.
“I am worried about going out. In my opinion, people still have no idea, really, how dangerous and highly contagious the virus is,” she said.
She doesn’t allow anyone in the family to go out unless he or she has to buy essentials. Public commute is forbidden, she said. One time, she had to visit her hospitalized dog at the vet. She walked 3 kilometers to get home instead of taking public transport.
Few and behaved
Shoppers at SM Valenzuela are few and behaved, said Rai Rodil, 31. The eldest of three siblings, Rodil took it upon himself to take care of the family. He runs errands.
“There’s always a queue going inside the mall,” he said, “but surprisingly the line isn’t that long. I noticed more people lined up outside the grocery and drugstores, which means people are still going out to get only the essentials.”
Michelle Estella Estrada Bederi, a stay-at-home mom of three, steps out of her home in Parañaque only to get essentials. As extra precaution, Bederi shops in stand-alone grocery stores in Alabang.
“Some stores are not consistent with social distancing, so I go only to those that are strict and allow only a few people inside . . . stores that have been consistently policing the crowd since day 1,” Bederi said.
‘Walking Dead’ feels
“It’s ‘The Walking Dead’ feeling each time we go out to High Street (in BGC),” said Dianne Villafuerte, whose family goes out only for groceries at Rustan’s Marketplace and a few Korean shops along the way. “There’s nobody around. Restos are open for takeout, so all you can see are Grab and FoodPanda riders picking up orders.”
A few blocks away, on Burgos Circle, she said she spotted a few joggers and dog walkers.
“Yes, there’s social distancing. And even the humans don’t let their dogs interact with each other. I guess even during GCQ (general community quarantine), everyone goes out only to grab essentials. It feels weird rin mamasyal kasi,” Villafuerte said.
Estella Torres, head of media and communications at Save the Children, is amazed at how disciplined the crowd is at SM Molino. The mall installed guided two-way lanes for shoppers, and a dedicated staff controls the traffic.
“I do a lot of errands inside the mall. It’s part of my me-time. However, I still get scared when people don’t practice social distancing and go around the mall like there’s no pandemic,” Torres said. “We should behave as mature adults when inside malls.”
Since GCQ, there have also been complaints from senior citizens who were allegedly barred from entering malls.
“Senior citizens are allowed inside the mall if they are getting essentials such as grocery, medicines and food,” said Tracey Castillo, AVP for marketing at Rockwell, the operator of Power Plant Mall in Makati.Seniors may be asked to show an ID, Castillo said, and as long as they have an appointment with Hi-Precision Diagnostics, a clinic inside the mall, and do not have fever, they are okay to go inside the mall.
Shangri-La Plaza Mall told Lifestyle that “seniors are discouraged from entering and roaming around the mall. However, if they have appointments scheduled with any of our health services, they are permitted to enter the mall.”