By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is making an appeal to the government not to discriminate the older population and reconsider the simple application of chronological age as a criterion for the restriction of movement under the general community quarantine (GCQ) scheme.
CHR Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Aging and the Rights of Older Persons, said that the planned policy of the government will prohibit older people, or those aged 60 years and above, from going outside their homes in moderate and low-risk areas for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Gomez-Dumpit said there are several factors that need to be considered. “The older population is a heterogeneous group and the risks they face vary depending on different, sometimes compounded factors such as their physical health (existence of comorbidity), the socio-economic conditions they are in, their living arrangements, and dependency on care,” she said.
The CHR stressed that not all senior citizens have pre-existing health conditions and have poor health that make them vulnerable to being severely infected with COVID-19. At the same time, not all older people live with family members who they can rely on for food and other essential needs.
“A policy solely based on old age runs the risk of disproportionately discriminating older people who need to go outside their homes for essential activities, including work and the procurement of basic goods and services, and those who live alone or with other older family members,” warned Gomez-Dumpit.
Instead of totally restricting the movement of senior citizens, the CHR recommended that the government need only to “discourage” them from going outside their homes.
“This not only respects the autonomy of older people to decide for their own, but it will also protect them from the punitive aspects of the enforcement of the community quarantine,” she said.
The CHR stressed that discriminatory policies based solely on age should not be used in health crisis responses. While it is indeed important for law enforcement to contain the spread of the virus, the Commission said that the government still needs to consider the diversity of the needs of older people in different situations.