Debate on senior citizens’ quarantine rages in House

Published April 29, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ben Rosario

The debate on whether or not senior citizens should be held in mandatory quarantine in their homes rages on in the House of Representatives.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

Reps. Eric Pineda (1Pacman Party-list) and Francisco Datol (Senior Citizens Party-list) urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to relax the directive on citizens 60 years old and above.

They aired the appeal as various senior citizen organizations slammed the IATF’s decision on the issue.

Petitions have been posted online as authors assailed the mandatory quarantine as both “unconstitutional” and inhumane.

Pineda, chairman of the House committee on labor and employment, said many senior citizens are still strong and even “gainfully employed or are active in business.”

Their view was supported by Kabayan Partylist Ron Salo who said the mandatory quarantine of senior citizens beyond the lockdown period may be “deemed inhumane at worst, or ill-thought of at the least.”

However, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin strongly backed the IATF stand. He said encouraging the elderly to remain home “is based on data.”

“Data suggests older people are twice as likely to have serious illness from the novel coronavirus, according to the WHO,” Garbin said.

“In fact, in some countries like [the] UK, one of the measures they adopted is to quarantine the elderly. People over 70 were instructed by the government to stay in strict isolation at home or in care homes for four months, under a ‘wartime-style’ mobilization effort by the government,” Garbin said.

However, Pineda pointed out that statistics coming from the Department of Health indicate that 24 percent of COVID-patients are 50 to 59 years old, while those belonging to the 60-69 percent bracket account for 26 per cent, indicating a slim difference of two percent.

“Therefore, if (those) in the age bracket 50-59 are not covered by the extended lockdown, so too should (those in) the 60-69 age bracket,” Pineda said as he pointed out the seemingly uneven IATF standard.

The party-list solon said a big number belonging to the 60-65 age bracket do not have any underlying ailments to be considered vulnerable to COVID-19.

Pineda also pointed out that President Duterte and other key members of his cabinet are septuagenarians, but are still productive and are currently working hard.

“Key executives in corporations are seniors. [The] majority of cabinet members are over 60, even President Duterte is a senior citizen, [and] more than 100 congressmen are over 60 years old,” Pineda said.

He urged the IATF to reconsider its decision and allow senior citizens who are healthy to go out of their houses even after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has ended.

Pineda also argued that the elderly are considered among the most law abiding citizens in the country, and so will follow the mandated rules government might imposed under the current ECQ and general community quarantine (GCQ) situation.

He called for the lifting of the mandatory quarantine on most seniors and said it should be imposed instead on elderly citizens with underlying conditions.

Meanwhile, Datol said, “We don’t need to completely disallow them from leaving their homes just because of their age.”

“Senior citizens also need to go outside to move around, as long as they are practicing social distancing. Especially those who live alone, we should not isolate them in their homes, as such may be detrimental to their health. They should be allowed to do their errands and work if they are still able,” Datol added.

For his part, Salo said protecting the elderly from COVID-19 “does not justify complete disregard of their civil liberties as well as their right to gainful employment.”

“We call on the IATF to respectfully reconsider this provision to ensure that their rights are not unduly curtailed, (while) still ensuring the protection of their health and safety,” he said.

Rejecting the position of his Lower House colleagues, Garbin backed the IATF’s bid to safeguard seniors from COVID-19 infection.

“This ought to be top of mind for people over 60, and those with underlying health problems, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, or compromised immune systems. The single most important thing you can do to avoid the virus is to reduce your face-to-face contact with people,” he said.