Duterte: younger kids must stay home while virus rages
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday recalled the lowering of the age of children who may be allowed to go out in areas under modified general community quarantine, saying kids 10 to 14 years old must stay at home because of the presence of the UK variant of the Covid-19 virus in the country.
The decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to lower the age of children who may go out to 10 was supposed to take effect on Feb. 1.
“You just return to your homes for now … The older ones are hard to manage, but those 10, 11, 12 [years old] can glue their attention to the TV the whole day,” Mr. Duterte said in a televised address to the nation on Monday night.
“I am sorry. Mine is just a precaution. I am afraid because the new strain strikes the young children,” he added.
Mr. Duterte noted that the UK variant of the new coronavirus has been discovered in the Cordillera region.
“Just to be sure and in our desire to protect our people, I am constrained to reimpose the 10 to 14 [restriction]. Not at this time. It’s a sacrifice for the parents and children. It would limit their movements,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, the Metro Manila Council said the 17 mayors in the metropolis opposed allowing more children to go out.
In a television interview, Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez, the council chief, said the mayors had reached a consensus that easing the age curbs must not be allowed.
“Metro Manila is under [general community quarantine] so the [task force] allowed the [local governments] in Metro Manila to assess if they would allow the age [restrictions] to be relaxed,” Olivarez said.
“The consensus in one of our meetings was almost everyone was against relaxing the age bracket. But despite that, we also sought the recommendation, comment, advice of medical experts, pediatric consultants,” he said.
“What [the medical experts] said was it’s not advisable to lower the age bracket,” he said, adding that the relaxation would not be prudent following the discovery of the more transmissible UK variant of the new coronavirus in the Philippines with no Covid-19 vaccines arriving soon.
“According to [the health experts], kids are superspreaders. When they catch the virus, they’re asymptomatic and appear healthy, but can easily and surely infect the elderly,” Olivarez said.
The Department of Trade and Industry maintained that more children must be allowed to go out to help boost the economy.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said earlier on Monday that the key factor that must be included in the easing of the age restriction was strict compliance with health measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
He said allowing more children to go out with their families for bonding would boost the economy, which needed help to recover after months of lockdown.
The response to the discovery of the UK variant in the country is compliance with health measures, he said.
“Our belief is if they are careful and this is something that will promote family bonding, the social aspect and social development of the youth together with the parents, we think it is worth it to try this easing of restrictions carefully,” Lopez said at a news briefing in Malacañang.
Authorities say that getting infected is not about age, but about compliance, he added.
Lopez said he understood the concerns of the health experts that the task force, of which he is a member, also considered when it made the decision.
“But again, in the [task force], we consider also the threats to [the] economy, threats to security that could also be affected as the country continues to suffer and many become impoverished and hungry,” he said.
What the government is doing, he said, is risk management and not risk avoidance so that the other sectors of the economy would prosper.
Lopez noted that the reopening of the economy earlier did not automatically lead to a surge in coronavirus infections.
But the daily count of new infections has been increasing in recent days, although health authorities do not see a surge.
On Monday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,581 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the overall number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country to 514,996.
Quezon City recorded the highest number of new cases, 89, followed by Cebu (88), Cavite (80), Davao City (78) and Cebu (50).
The DOH said 50 more patients had died, raising the death toll to 10,292. It said 13 other patients had recovered, bringing the total number of Covid-19 survivors to 475,422, after taking away 189 previous recoveries from the total count as these had been found to have tested negative.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 29,282 active cases, of which 84.3 percent were mild, 8.6 percent asymptomatic, 0.51 percent moderate, 2.6 percent severe, and 4.1 percent critical. —WITH A REPORT FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN INQ
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