CHILDREN five years old and above are now allowed to go out in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ), Malacañang announced Friday, July 9, 2021.
But they are not allowed in malls and other mixed use indoor/outdoor buildings and facilities, based on Resolution 125 of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Outdoor areas are limited to parks, playgrounds, beaches, biking and hiking trails, outdoor tourist sites and attractions as may be defined by the Department of Tourism, outdoor non-contact sports courts and venues, and al fresco dining establishments.
However, the children must be accompanied by adults and must follow minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, and wearing of face masks and face shields.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said local government units (LGUs) are given the discretion to increase the age restriction for children, depending on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) situation in the locality.
In Cebu City, Councilor Joel Garganera said he will wait for advice from Mayor Edgardo Labella.
"We will forward this to the Mayor’s Office. As of the moment, cases are rising. Hospital occupancy increased to 34 percent from 21 percent two weeks ago, though we’re in a very safe zone," Garganera said. He also serves as deputy chief implementer of the Cebu City Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
But personally, he said it would be best to bring down the number of active cases in the City before the restrictions on children are eased.
He noted that Covid-19 cases in Cebu City have been increasing since May 18.
"We're on the same page. We're going toward that direction, but not now because our cases are increasing," he said.
In the last seven days alone (July 2 to 8), cases averaged almost 75 a day, with the highest recorded at 93 on Thursday, July 8, one of the highest daily case counts for the City this year. These brought the number of active cases to 982.
Cases increased by around 33 percent to an average of 68 a day in the last 14 days from June 25 to July 8 compared to the 51 daily average in the previous two weeks from June 11 to June 24.
A total of 17 patients died from Covid-19 in the City in the last two weeks.
Cebu City has been under MGCQ since September 2020. Its risk classification and quarantine status were not escalated despite a spike in cases early this year as hospital occupancy remained manageable.
Dr. Van Philip Baton, medical program coordinator for infectious diseases of the Department of Health (DOH) 7, said the relaxation of age restrictions was discussed by the IATF prior to the issuance of the resolution.
He reminded the public to continue religiously complying with the minimum public health standards.
He also said the parents have the responsibility to ensure their children's safety.
The LGUs, meanwhile, may determine whether the IATF policy is applicable in their area.
“It has always been up to the local government units to assess the applicability of such issuance to the realities in their areas,” he said.
“The DOH remains to be in the opinion that minimum public health protocols have to be observed by all, especially in the setting that a significant portion of the community are not yet vaccinated,” he added.
The latest IATF resolution, which was approved on July 8, also provided that children in areas under GCQ with heightened restrictions, namely Cavite and Laguna, are not covered by the relaxed protocols.
The IATF imposed stay-at-home restrictions on children and senior citizens, along with immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women, when a large part of the country went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Age restrictions were relaxed in October 2020, with the IATF allowing those 15 to 65 years old to go out.
These were eased further in January 2021 to allow children 10 to 14 years old to step out of their homes. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, recalled the IATF resolution as a precautionary measure against the highly transmissible coronavirus variants.
In the same resolution, the IATF also authorized special commercial flights that will bring home stranded Filipinos in Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and other countries with travel restrictions.
A special working group (SWG) will determine the implementing protocols for the special commercial flights, in coordination with the concerned airlines.
The SWG will be composed of the Department of Health, Bureau of Quarantine, Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation and its One-Stop Shop, Philippine Coast Guard and Department of Tourism. (SunStar Philippines / PAC, WBS)