President Duterte has recalled the order of the government’s pandemic task force to allow children aged 10 to 14 years old to go outside their homes in areas under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) due to the new COVID-19 variant.
Duterte made the statement after the order of the Interagency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to ease the age restrictions in MGCQ areas met mixed reactions from the public.
In his taped public address aired on Monday evening, President Duterte said he made the decision as a precautionary measure against the new United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 which was recently found in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
“Yung restrictions na lifting the – 10-14 age group sa MGCQ areas, na palabasin na yung mga 10-14 (That order that allows kids 10-14 years old outside their homes in MGCQ areas), I am compelled [to reverse it]– it has nothing to do with the incompetence, not at all,” he said.
“Ang akin (My decision) is a precaution because there is a strain discovered in the Cordillera that is very similar to the strain dito sa (from the) United Kingdom. How it got there is beyond me,” he added.
According to the President, he is scared about the news that the COVID-19 UK variant affects children, unlike the original SARS CoV2 strain as reported by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Takot lang ako. Because itong bagong (I’m just scared because this new) strain strikes beyond children,” he said.
“It does not have any cut-off there. Just to be sure, and my desire to protect the people, napilitan ako na i-reimpose yung 10-14 (I am forced to reverse the new order). Not at this time,” he added.
Solons support move
Lawmakers threw all-out support to the President’s decision to recall the order.
“The fact that the new variant is easily transmitted warrants the decision of the President not to allow 10 to 14 years old outside their homes. There are still a lot of unknowns regarding COVID-19. Younger teens have been shown to be super spreaders,” Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin said in a text message.
She explained that minimum public health standard is not that easy to implement among the young.
“While we have the vaccine on the pipeline, it’s thrust is ‘zero deaths and extremely reduced hospitalization.’ Transmission can still be possible. Hence, a few more months of waiting will allow us more scientific information leading to guided decisions,” Garin, a former Health secretary, said.
Capiz 2nd District Fredenil Castro, a former deputy speaker, also agreed with Garin’s observations.
“Allowing children to go out will expose their entire family to COVID19. What they get outside, they could bring home. Children have the tendency to forget COVID-19 and/or the minimum established safety measures to ensure the safety of everybody specially, during the time that they are preoccupied with their play/ enjoyment and they bring home what they get outside.There should be no rush to allow them outside,” he said.
“The UK variant type of virus is new and unpredictable. The spread can have disastrous effect on the the population. It has no conclusive study yet on the effects of it on the young. Better safe than sorry,” Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo said.
“We should take all precautions and not be complacent,” Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said, noting that the new COVID-19 variant was recently found in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Masbate 2nd District Rep. Elisa “Olga” Kho, a medical doctor, said, “I don’t like children to go out of their homes just for fun unless very essential or necessary like receiving treatments, but for play I do not think it is proper because they can play at home and with other alternatives, especially now there are mutations of the virus and the rate if infection is going up.”
“Maintaining the restrictions for this age group will further support all our efforts to minimize the risks of contracting the COVID-19 virus especially the UK variant which is said to be more infectious and transmissible that may cause to multiply our current number of COVID-19 cases,” Baguio lone District Rep. Mark Go said.
President Duterte asked for the public’s understanding about his decision to recall the new IATF order. However, until health experts are certain that the UK variant affects children or not, his order will stay.
“It’s a sacrifice for the parents and for the children. It would limit their movement. That’s about the time when they are playful and they have limited space to move,” he said.
“Once it is confirmed na talaga ang mga bata tinatamaan, pati (that it affects children even those) as young as 10 years old or even younger, well, then that order will subsist until such time that everybody will be safe by the bakuna (vaccine),” he added.
Earlier on Friday, the IATF allowed those aged 10 to 65 to go outside their homes in areas under the MGCQ, even urging local governments in GCQ areas to follow suit, to revive the economy. (With a report from Charissa Luci Atienza)