MANILA (UPDATE) - The inter-agency task force leading the country’s pandemic response has allowed minors aged 10 to 14 to go out of their homes in areas under modified general community quarantine or MGCQ, easing a restriction meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, Malacañang said on Friday.
Previously, only those aged 15 to 65 were authorized to go out, with the exception of work, getting necessities and vacationing in certain areas.
"Iyong 10 to 65 [years old] ay pupuwede na pong lumabas sa MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) area," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
(Those aged 10 to 65 years old can go out in MGCQ areas.)
"Ibig sabihin po nito, iyong mga bata na may edad na mas bata pa sa 10 at iyong mga seniors na mas matanda pa sa 65 ay dapat stay home pa rin po," he said on a government-run television program.
(This means that children with ages below 10 and seniors above 65 should still stay home.)
In a separate statement, Roque said the relaxed age curbs would cover MGCQ areas "beginning February 1, 2021."
Local governments in GCQ areas, the third strictest of 4 lockdown levels, are urged to also allow 10- to 14-years olds to go out, said Roque.
"Pero uulitin ko po, desisyon pa rin iyan ng mga lokal na pamahalaan," he said.
With the easing of age restriction, a pediatric infectious disease specialist urged parents to be cautious in letting their children go outside.
While the government order was meant to bring a "sense of normalcy" to the lives of children who were ordered to stay home for nearly a year, Dr. Anna Ong-Lim expressed concern of the possibility of household infection.
"Parents should carefully consider if going outside is absolutely necessary or not," she said in Filipino.
"Parents are responsible for the well-being of their children. So, if that place you are going to is not deemed safe, then don't go," added Lim, member of the technical working group of the Department of Health (DOH) on COVID-19.
But for families going outside their homes, the health expert called on them to strictly observe minimum health standards such as wearing of face mask, face shield and physical distancing.
The trade department earlier backed the easing of age restrictions in areas under MGCQ so that commercial establishments like malls would have more customers.
"Kung tayo ay talagang nagnanais makabalik at maka-recover ang ating ekonomiya kailangan talagang dahan-dahanin din nating ang pagluluwag pagdating sa age restrictions," Lopez said in a public briefing.
(If we really want to let the economy recover, we really need to slowly ease age restrictions.)
A public health expert last November warned that children could become COVID-19 superspreaders if they are allowed to go out.
"They say the holiday season is about kids and children but I think if they will be allowed to roam around and visit the malls they will be the ones to carry the virus at home. They will be the superspreaders and they will affect their parents and grandparents so this is dangerous," said Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser of the government's pandemic task force.
"This has been happening in other countries where the children are actually the superspreaders in the home and in other areas," he told ANC's Headstart.