IATF eases age restrictions

Published January 22, 2021, 9:20 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Allows children aged 10 in MGCQ areas to leave home starting Feb. 1

Starting next month, children as young as 10 years old will be allowed to go out of their homes in areas under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) in line with the government’s attempt to spur consumer spending and revive economic growth. 

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has agreed to lower the age restriction for people allowed to leave their homes from 15 to 10 years old following a meeting Thursday, Malacañang announced Friday. 

Prior to the latest IATF decision, the government exempted persons age 15 to 65 from the strict stayat-home policy but compelled the observance of health protocols during the community quarantine. 

Local government units are given authority to decide on the age limit for minors depending on their coronavirus situation. 

“The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) approved the recommendation to relax age-based restrictions for areas placed under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) beginning February 1, 2021. Any person below ten (10) years old and those who are over sixty-five (65) years of age shall be required to remain in their residence at all times,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. 

“Puwede na po lumabas ang mga bata na may 10 taong gulang hanggang yung mga senior citizens na 65 years old sa mga MGCQ areas (Children aged 10 and senior citizens up to age 65 can now go out of their houses in MGCQ areas),” he said over state television. 

In areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), Roque said the task force has enjoined local government units (LGUs) to adopt the same relaxation of age-restrictions but it would be up to the local government units to make the decision on the matter. 

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez had earlier backed a proposal to allow 10- year-old children to go out with their parents in malls and other places as long as strict health protocols are followed, citing the need to revitalize domestic consumption and economic activity. 

Despite the easing of the lockdown a few months ago, the trade chief admitted that the recovery of businesses has been restrained due to the limited population allowed to go out, shop, and dine. 

Lopez remained optimistic that the government’s forthcoming rollout of the coronavirus vaccines will also boost consumer confidence and provide a “safe environment” in the country. 

Additional testing requirement 

The IATF also imposed an additional testing requirement for inbound travelers exempted from the travel restrictions on countries affected by the new coronavirus variants. 

The IATF ruled that inbound passengers must be tested upon arrival in the country and undergo another test five days into their quarantine. 

Those who test negative from the two tests will be allowed to go home and serve the remainder of their 14- day quarantine there. 

Previously, the IATF mandated incoming travelers to undergo quarantine at a facility for 14 days regardless of the test results upon arrival in the country. 

The travelers can choose from the government-accredited hotels and other quarantine facilities. 

In Resolution No. 95, the IATF amended the testing and quarantine protocols for passengers coming from or transiting through countries with travel curbs due to the new COVID-19 variants. 

“Incoming passengers shall be tested upon arrival and shall be quarantined until the result of a subsequent test administered on the fifth day is released,” the IATF said. 

“After which, said persons who yield a negative result from both COVID-19 tests shall be endorsed to their local government units of destination who shall then strictly monitor the remainder of the fourteen-day quarantine through their respective Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams,” it added. 

Health authorities had earlier reported that it takes approximately five to 14 days for persons to start showing symptoms of the coronavirus. 

A 14-day quarantine for people who could be infectious has been adopted by many nations to avoid the spread of infections. 

The Philippines has prohibited the entry of foreign travelers from several countries with reported cases of the new COVID variant until Jan. 31.

 Exempted from the travel ban are Filipinos, foreign diplomats, personnel of accredited international groups such as the World Health Organization and United Nations, foreign dignitaries, and those with medical and emergency cases, but they all must undergo testing and quarantine procedures. 

In the latest resolution, the IATF amended an earlier order exempting certain travelers from the restrictions on COVID-affected countries. 

The task force has ruled that those foreign nationals exempted from travel curbs must have valid visas to enter the country. 

The spouse and minor children of Filipino citizens traveling with them are also now allowed to enter the Philippines subject to the same testing and quarantine protocols. 

“Those for medical and emergency cases, including their medical escorts, if any, subject to the applicable testing and quarantine protocols as prescribed by the Department of Health,” the IATF said. 

Filipinos arriving for highly exceptional and/or medical reasons, and local diplomats shall likewise undergo quarantine protocols set by the DoH.