BY NOEL TALACAY
TOP local executives from Metro Manila’s 16 cities and one municipality do not want children 17 years old and below staying outdoors and visiting shopping malls, especially during the holiday season, amid the continued threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Jojo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and spokesman of the Metro Manila Council (MMC), said the consensus was made following a recommendation from the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) to bar minors from entering commercial establishments and other outdoor rest and recreation facilities.
The MMC is composed of the 17 mayors of the National Capital Region. It is the governing and policy-making body of the MMDA.
Garcia said PPS president Joselyn Eusebio shared his group’s position on the issue, which in turned was “the bases of our mayors in Metro Manila in coming up with their decision.”
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the PPS and the PIDSP said children are easy virus transmitters since most of them do not exhibit symptoms even if they are already infected.
The two groups said that “since the possibility of children getting infected from adults with COVID-19 is established and some evidence have pointed that children are likewise capable of transmitting SARS-CoV 2 to susceptible individuals regardless of age, it is strongly recommended by pediatricians for children to remain at home to minimize the risk of getting infected and lower viral transmission.”
Garcia said Metro mayors met on Wednesday night and voted 17-0 to retain the existing age restriction which is below 17 years old and above 65 years old, in areas under general community quarantine.
“Persons aged 18-65 years old are the only ones allowed to go inside malls in Metro Manila,” he added.
However, he said that essential activities done inside shopping malls such as medical and dental check-ups, buying of food, and medicines are allowed for all ages, including minors and senior citizens as long as the minimum health protocols will be strictly observed.
Garcia said minors can do non-contact sports such as biking and jogging, subject to interpretation of local government units (LGUs) through their respective existing ordinances. “Penalizing and sanction for violators will depend on the ordinance of LGUs in Metro Manila,” he said.
He also reminded both the mall owners and the LGUs of their responsibilities to ensure that no minors are seen inside their establishments and in other outdoor facilities.
“MMC, including MMDA are grateful to Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año for supporting the decision of Metro Manila mayors, since the enforcement lies on the local government units,” Garcia said.
Año welcomed the recommendation of the Metro mayors. “I commend and I appreciate the position of the NCR (National Capital Region) mayors,” said Año, adding that allowing minors to go out of their homes may only lead to more people getting infected.
Año said some Metro Manila mayors broached the idea of allowing the minors to go to malls and other areas so he told them to come up with a recommendation and submit this to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Año, a key member of the IATF-MEID, said the decision of the Metro Manila was the correct move, saying; “If possible, people should stay home, minors should stay home, that is really my stand.”
“We should be careful. Now that Christmas is approaching, the people’s tendency is to go out. If you allow the minors to go out, they’re not easy to control. When they are in malls, they may be infected. When they go home, they will infect their vulnerable ones, their grandfathers and grandmothers,” said Año.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday apologized to the parents and their children who were already looking forward to leaving their homes to visit malls after the Metro Manila mayors decided against it.
Roque said one industry that can contribute to the economy is the tourism sector as he welcomed the reopening of Puerto Princesa to local tourists starting December 8, which he said is meant to encourage residents to go around the city.
Puerto Princesa mayor Lucilo Bayron said the city government is offering its beach areas as initial offering to tourists but said only organized or packaged tours are allowed for now. – With Victor Reyes and Jocelyn Montemayor