LGUs have discretion on allowing children outdoors: treatment czar

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2021 11:08 AM | Updated as of Jul 10 2021 01:02 PM

LGUs have discretion on allowing children outdoors: treatment czar 1
Children play along a street in Makati City on June 29, 2021. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) said that Metro Manila and the provinces of Rizal and Bulacan should be under general community quarantine (GCQ) “with some restrictions” until the middle of July. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The new government policy allowing children 5 years old and above to go outdoors in areas under the two loosest quarantine classifications may be a welcome respite for kids who have been cooped up at home for the longest time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, treatment czar Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega saud Saturday that children must still observe standard public health protocols while outdoors. Local government units, he said, still have the discretion over enforcing the new policy.

“Ang mga 5 years po, alam natin itong age group na ito mababa ang kanilang cases of COVID pero sinabi nga ng IATF na kung lalabas man sila better kung may minimum public safety kagaya ng mask, para ‘di nila makuha ang virus sa environment at public,” said Vega.

(COVID cases in the 5 year old age group is very low but the IATF had said that if they go outdoors, it’s better if they still observe the minimum public safety like wearing masks to prevent them from getting the virus.)

“Nagbigay na ng policy ang IATF. However, nasa discretion ng local government unit 'yan lalo na sa mga different areas na may higher quarantine position. Kung makikita nila na pwede namang lumabas ang mga bata na 5 years old and above dahil MGCQ na sila pwedeng mapayagan ng local government unit,” he said.

(The IATF has given the policy. However, it is on the discretion of the local government unit especially in different areas with higher quarantine positions. If they think that it’s OK for 5-year-olds and above to go out because they are under MGCQ, then the LGUs can allow them.)

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On Friday, the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 said it has partially lifted stay-at-home orders for children aged 5 and up in areas under general community quarantine and modified GCQ, except those under heightened restrictions.

But outdoor areas “shall be 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 in the previously mentioned areas.” Still off limits for children are malls and similar establishments.

Some LGUs may not be in favor of the new policy, but Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos said that they may impose additional requirements.

"It's up to the LGU. They can impose additional requirements, pwede nila taasan ng edad or probably baka 'yung iba, ayaw pa sa ganito," he said.

(They could set the age limit or probably others are not yet ready for this.) 

Abalos said there are LGUs with many open spaces where children could go, but there are also others that don’t have enough open space and implementing the new policy may be difficult for them. 

“Tinitingnan natin sa ibang LGU. Pero sila Mayor Lino (Cayetano) ng Taguig, ang dami nila open spaces, OK 'yan. Quezon City for one, si Mayor Joy (Belmonte) nakausap ko. These are things you got autonomy [on],” he said.

(We're looking at other LGUs. But in Taguig, they have many open spaces. In Quezon City, I have spoken with Mayor Joy.)

The Metro Manila Council will hold a meeting on Saturday to get the opinion of health experts if it's really safe for all children to go out of their homes especially with the threat of more contagious variants of COVID-19.

Abalos said they want uniform guidelines on this so as not to confuse the public.

Meanwhile, Vega said the government is implementing strict border control to prevent the delta variant from spreading in the country.

“Isang malaking hakbang na talagang very significant is 'yung border control. Nakita natin doon dumaan ang mga variants of concern noon galing sa UK at even sa South African variants ay nanggagaling mismo sa returning overseas passengers from international flights kaya kumalat sa ibang region,” said Vega. 

(One very significant action of the government here is the border control. We know that these variants of concern come from overseas passengers, from international flights that’s why its spreading to other regions.)
Nineteen cases of the delta variant, which was first detected in India, have been logged in the Philippines since July 4, 2021. Most of the new variant cases were returning Filipino migrant workers.

“Ang isang hakbang na dapat natin talagang pag-igihin 'yung border control na 10 days kang mag-quarantine saka 7th day swabbing saka 4 days additional home quarantine to make sure 'yung viral load kung meron pa mababa na talaga,” he said.

(We need to strengthen border control and the 10 days quarantine and 7th day testing plus additional 4 days of home quarantine to make sure that the viral load, if there is still any, is low.)

Vega said more vaccine supplies are expected to arrive this July and in the following months in order to achieve population protection by the end of the year.

He said that the more unvaccinated people there are, the more time for the virus to replicate.

“Ang virus, talaga naghahanap lang ng host 'yan, nagre-replicate. The more that they replicate, the more that they can mutate. Ang wall of protection talaga natin is to come up with a high percentage of 2 doses vaccine in the population that will cover their protection,” he said.

(The virus is looking for a host to replicate. The more that they replicate, the more that they can mutate. The wall of protection is really to come up with a high percentage of 2 doses vaccine in the population that will cover their protection.)

- With report from Jekki Pascual