MANILA - The UNICEF on Friday cautioned against prohibiting minors in Metro Manila to go outside their homes for 2 weeks amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, as this supposedly could take another toll on their mental well-being as the pandemic persisted.
In a statement, the United Nations agency said the move of the Metro Manila Council (MMC) this week could be considered an “infringement of children’s rights.”
“While efforts to contain the spread of infections require public health and social measures, UNICEF emphasizes that these measures should consider the highest level of acceptability and feasibility, proven effectiveness and should minimize the negative consequences on health and well-being of all members of society,” the statement read.
“They should respond to the best interest of the child; should not cause further harm; and should always consider the preservation of the child’s well being and dignity,” the humanitarian organization added.
The MMC this week decided to allow only residents aged 18 to 65 outside their homes, according to a statement released by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Before this, the local chief executives already allowed those aged 15 to 65 outside their homes.
The development was also coupled by the reimplementation of a 2-week curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and localized lockdowns to curb COVID-19 spread.
The UNICEF, however, disagreed, saying the country’s lockdown, considered the longest in the world, is already taking a toll on children’s mental health because of the “restrictive containment measures,” which included prohibiting them to see their extended families, teachers, and friends, among other people.
“They have been learning from home, often confronting incredibly challenging circumstances. For those experiencing violence, neglect or abuse at home, lockdowns left them stranded with abusers and without the required support,” the organization pointed out.
The UN agency cited the World Health Organization, which said that the pandemic already disrupted mental health services in 93 percent of the countries worldwide, noting that the call for mental health support has been rising.
It also urged the regional council to “issue a resolution” that would take into account the “best interest” of the child.
“Children of all age groups can be allowed to play and conduct sport and physical exercise in outdoor areas, as long as the required public health measures (social distancing and wearing of masks) are strictly complied with,” it read, citing the community quarantine guidelines issued by the inter-agency task force leading the country’s pandemic response.
The local governments should also “find better ways” to manage the health emergency such as consulting the children and the communities in decisions that might affect them. The health measures should also be “evidence-based” and communicated “transparently.”
“We need to take into full account the needs and rights of children, while we continue to protect them and all members of the public, from the increased risk of COVID-19 infections.”
A public health expert earlier warned that children can become super spreaders if they are allowed to go outside their homes.
The country on Friday recorded the highest number of daily infections since the pandemic began, at 7,103. The number of active cases at 73,264 is also considered the highest in nearly 7 months.
Some experts late last year said minors in areas with low risk of virus transmission should be allowed to go out but should stay in open spaces and parks.