Preventing minors from going outside violates their rights – Unicef
MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) Philippines has balked at the recent decision of Metro Manila mayors to prohibit minors from going outside for two weeks to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“The recent decision of the Metro Manila Council (MMC), through the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to explicitly prohibit minors from going outside for a period of two weeks, in a bid to contain the transmission of the virus in the metropolis, can be considered an infringement of children’s rights,” Unicef Philippines said in a statement.
Benhur Abalos Jr., chair of the MMDA, who is a father of seven, said the Unicef’s recommendation was “desirable … that children would be able to still enjoy outdoor activities.”
“But I hope the Unicef would understand that there is really an alarming increase in cases … that we cannot explain,” Abalos told the Inquirer. “Everything is very fluid right now, but we are continuously monitoring the situation.”
He added: “These are different times and [the situation] affects not only children but everyone. And the way things are going, it’s almost like the one that we experienced last year.”
No vaccine yet for kids
To date, there is still no vaccine against COVID-19 for children and Unicef, which espouses the inoculation of all children, has not made any statement on COVID-19 jabs for children or whether it will help get shots for Filipinos.
Abalos said the mayors were regularly coordinating with the national government, health experts and researchers to be able to come up with the right decision.
On Friday, the Unicef urged the MMC—which is composed of 17 mayors in the National Capital Region—to instead pass a resolution “to take the best interest of the child into account.”
The Unicef said the resolution should specify that “children of all age groups can be allowed to play and conduct sport and physical exercise in outdoor areas, as long as the required public health measures … are strictly complied with.”
The organization pointed out that this was “clearly spelled out” in the community quarantine guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“As the pandemic enters its second year, the impact on children and young people’s psychosocial well-being and mental health risks is taking a toll,” the Unicef said.
The group added that “children and their communities should be consulted and an evidence-based rationale for measures that affect them should be developed and communicated transparently.”
But the only evidence the Unicef presented were global data from the World Health Organization showing that the pandemic has disrupted critical mental health services in 93 percent of countries worldwide.
Abalos said that stringent quarantine measures could also help keep down the infection rate on Filipino children.
“The effects of this [prohibition] could be felt after … probably seven to 14 days, [considering] the incubation of the virus. The rise of the cases that we’re seeing right now is still the effect of [the situation] when the measures were not that stringent yet,” Abalos said.
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