Año backtracks: Minors still banned in malls

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    INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday backtracked on his earlier pronouncement that minors in Metro Manila are already allowed to go out of their homes amid the continued threat of COVID-19 as long as they are accompanied by adults.

    Año, a key member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), admitted there was actually still no final decision on the matter of permitting children 17 years old and below to go to shopping malls, especially with the Christmas season approaching.

    In a television briefing on Monday, Año announced that minors can go out of their homes as long they are accompanied by their parents. He said the move will have to be supported by ordinances from local government units.

    Yesterday, Año clarified that Metro Manila mayors have yet to reach a consensus and make a recommendation on the matter during the two meetings he had with them.

    He said the local executives still need to consult with the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and other health experts before coming up with a recommendation.

    “If the Metro Manila mayors are able to come up with a common proposal allowing minors or children in malls and other public places, the final decision will still be with the IATF and ultimately, the President,” said Año.

    “Let’s wait for the mayors to make the recommendation to the IATF,” he added.

    Año said the Metro Manila mayors are divided whether to allow the minors to leave their homes. “The Metro Manila mayors are divided, we need one stand. The update is they are going to meet with the Philippine Pediatric Society for a discussion,” he said.

    Without the decision to allow the minors to go out of their homes, Año said the old regulation will still prevail: minors cannot go out of their homes yet.

    Año acknowledged it is better if less people are on the streets to sustain the decreasing daily number COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

    “As much as possible, we should limit the number of people going out, especially the elderly and minors. But we will listen to the Metro Manila Mayors and the health experts on what their recommendation will be,” Año said.

    Meanwhile, Defense Secretary vand National Task Force Against COVID 19 Delfin Lorenzana urged local government officials against holding activities that will lead to the violation of social distancing rules.

    He specifically called the attention of Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong for the opening of the night market in the country’s summer capital city on Tuesday. The city government allowed the resumption of the night market to reopen their economy.

    Magalong later suspended the operation of the night market after it drew a large number of people. He said the reopening of businesses amid the pandemic should not be in exchange of the health of the people.

    Lorenzana also noted mass gatherings that have led to the violation of social distancing, like the one in Bantayan Island in Cebu which was attended by presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

    “Thats not good to be seen in media. We are enforcing these protocols in other places and then some are violating it. We do not approve that at the IATF. We call the attention of those organizers, I think Gov. Gwen Garcia (of Cebu) and now Mayor Magalong,” he said.

    Lorenzana failed to mention Sen. Manny Pacquiao who distributed on Thursday and Friday last week food packs to residents of Batangas and Cavite who were affected by recent typhoons, also compromising social distancing.

    Lorenzana said officials should avoid organizing mass gathering as the government is aiming to reduce the daily number of COVID-19 case to three digits.

    Metro Manila Council (MMC) spokesman Jojo Garcia confirmed that metro mayors have agreed to first consult with the PPS before they come up with the common stand on the issue of allowing minors to go out of their homes.

    Garcia said the old guideline allowing only 18 to 65 years olds to go out remain enforced.

    “We have consulted with Dr. Joselyn Alonzo-Eusebio, president of the Philippine Pediatric Society on this matter. We will await their opinion, based on facts,” he said.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the Department of Health (DOH) is not in favor of allowing children to go out and head to malls. “Our position has not changed. As much as possible, we discourage that. It’s better if the children won’t go out. If it remains prohibited, it would be better,” Duque said.

    He added: “About 3-5 percent of the total infected are children, so they are not exempted from transmission.”

    Similarly, the health chief admitted that children may play a role in further spreading the virus.

    “It is possible that, while they are asymptomatic, they can cause the spread of the virus and result to surge in cases,” said Duque. – With Noel Talacay and Gerard Naval