NTF spox backtracks, says minors allowed to travel with families despite COVID surge


Posted at Mar 17 2021 07:57 AM | Updated as of Mar 17 2021 12:04 PM

NAIA Terminal 1 personnel perform routine disinfection as a precaution against COVID-19 on October 28, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The spokesperson of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 clarified on Wednesday that minors are allowed to travel domestically with their families, contrary to his earlier announcement, amid a surge in new infections. 

Ret. Gen. Restituto Padilla said earlier Wednesday that only those aged 18 to 65 would be allowed to travel, in a bid to curb a recent surge in coronavirus infections. 

But hours after his announcement, Padilla said, "I stand corrected." 

"The NTF allows minors to travel with their families point to point. The only restriction is their movement within Metro Manila specially to malls and crowded areas consistent with the announcement of the MMDA," he said in a text message. 

"They may also avail of domestic air travel with their families specially during the season of lent and their academic break," he added. 

Metro Manila from Wednesday banned minors outside their residences as new daily COVID-19 infections surged to levels similar to the early months of the pandemic crisis last year. 

The inter-agency task force leading the country's pandemic response has yet to discuss whether or not to ban domestic travel of minors, said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. 

Romulo-Puyat said she only learned of Padilla's previous announcement after some social media users asked her if they may not bring along minors on tourist trips. 

Tourism has reopened in areas under modified general community quarantine, the loosest of 4 lockdown levels. These areas include Boracay and Palawan, she said. 

Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak, is under general community quarantine, but several measures have been put in place to arrest the fresh surge, including a curfew, liquor ban, and limits on flight arrivals, among others. 

"Makikiusap kami. We will give our stand sa IATF but we will follow what the majority thinks. But the fact na MGCQ, pwede na tourism. Kailangan lang sumunod sa health and safety protocols," Romulo-Puyat told ABS-CBN News. 

(We will appeal. We will give our stand to the IATF, but we will follow what the majority thinks. But the fact that is in MGCQ, tourism is allowed. Health and safety protocols should just be followed. )

"DOT will push pa rin lalo na this is the time to spend with families. Although we understand na tumataas ang cases, kami sa DOT, we are always for balancing slow but sure [reopening], but at the same time health and safety is there," she added. 

(The DOT will still push for this, especially since this is the time to spend with families. Although we understand that cases are increasing, we in the DOT, we are always for balancing slow but sure economic reopening, but at the same time, health and safety are there.)

The Philippines is battling a spike in coronavirus infections, tallying over 4,000 new COVID-19 cases for a fifth straight on Tuesday. 

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