By Genalyn Kabiling
The elderly will not be totally locked inside in their homes while the community quarantine is in effect in several parts of the country.
Senior citizens may still leave their homes for essential activities, including buying food and reporting for work, during the quarantine period based on a latest government decision.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) has approved certain exemptions to the home quarantine rule for the young, elderly and those with health risks in quarantine areas following the appeals made by concerned sectors.
The latest guidelines for areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ), approved by President Duterte, were read by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque during Thursday’s virtual press conference.
“Any person below twenty-one (21) years old, those who are sixty (60) years and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidities, or other health risks, and pregnant women, including any person who resides with the aforementioned, shall be required to remain in their residences at all times, except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices,” the IATF guideline read.
Roque has assured that the older people will not be placed on house arrest but reminded them about their vulnerability during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Napakadaming lola na tumawag at sinasabi na kukurutin daw ang singit ko dahil kinukulong ang mga senior citizen. Mga lolo at lola, hindi totoo ‘yan dahil ang ating Presidente at karamihan sa Cabinet ay senior citizens (There are many grandmothers who called and wanted to pinch me due to the supposed house arrest for senior citizens. To our elderly, that is not true because our President and most Cabinet members are senior citizens),” he said.
“Hindi naman kayo completely kulong pero uulitin ko sa pag-aaral especially vulnerable ang elderly. Puwede kayo lumabas para kumuha ng essential goods and services at magtrabaho sa mga pinapayagang industriya (You will not be completely be locked up but I repeat that studies show the elderly people are vulnerable. You may leave the house to get essential goods and services and work in authorized industries),” he said.
Several lawmakers recently appealed to the government to relax its home quarantine rule on senior citizens, especially those who are healthy and productive. They argued that some senior citizens should be allowed to do errands and work while observing physical distancing and other health precautions.
The Palace earlier recognized the concern raised about the plight of senior citizens and assured that this would be discussed by the government task force last Wednesday.
The government earlier advised that people with ages 20 and below, 60 and above, as well as those with high health risks must stay at home in quarantined areas to avoid coronavirus infection.
As the country’s cases of coronavirus continued to rise, Metro Manila, Cebu City, Davao City and other areas with high risk of infection would remain under enhanced community quarantine until May 15.
The government, on other hand, has relaxed the quarantine restrictions in several places with moderate and low risk of coronavirus spread starting May 1. Public transportation will be allowed at reduced capacity while certain industries and services will reopen under the general community quarantine subject to health protocols.
Guidelines on interzonal movement
The government has also issued the guidelines for the transit of people and goods between areas under ECQ and GCQ and vice versa, as well as an area not under quarantine to a GCQ or ECQ place, and vice versa.
According to Roque, the non-essential entry and exit of people to and from the ECQ zone shall be prohibited with certain exemptions. Among those exempted from ECQ transit are health workers, government officials and government frontline personnel, those traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons, persons’ transition to the airport for travel abroad, workers in permitted establishments and persons providing essential goods and services and public utilities, essential skeletal workforce, repatriated overseas Filipino workers and non-OFWs returning to their residences, and other persons transported through the national government efforts subject to quarantine protocols and concurrence with the local government units.
The movement of all types of cargoes by land, air or sea within and across areas placed under ECQ or GCQ must also be unhampered, Roque said.
He said workers in the logistics sectors such as cargo, trucking and port operations will also be allowed to transit across ECQ and GCQ zones. The government however imposed a maximum limit of five personnel that may operate cargo and delivery vehicles by land with or without load.
Uniformed personnel and government workers for official business, including transport of medical supplies and relief missions, will likewise be allowed to travel by land, air or sea.
OFWs, permanent residents, and stranded foreigners may leave for abroad through any airports or seaports under ECQ or GCQ. Such provision however must “not be interpreted to allow outbound travel by Filipinos to countries where travel restrictions are in place.” The departing passengers may be accompanied by one person when traveling to any international port.
The government has also allowed repatriated OFWs or returning non-OFWs who have completed facility-based quarantine, or were required to undergo mandatory 14-day home quarantine, to transit across zones to their final destination in the country. Local government units are enjoined to allow maritime vessels or aircraft transporting Filipinos to dock or land at their ports of destination.