MANILA - Metro Manila local officials have deferred the decision to decide on the mobility of children aged 12 below to the country's pandemic task force, amid the region's shift to eased quarantine.
The Metro Manila council said the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 "is in the best position to decide on the mobility restrictions on minors below 12 years old considering that it has the necessary, scientific and empirical data" and experts regarding the matter.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos, in a separate statement, said that the mayors came up with the decision since the IATF is "in the best position to decide on the matter."
"Local chief executives of Metro Manila have unanimously approved the endorsement of mobility restrictions of minors to the IATF, following concerns on the minors’ movement as Metro Manila eases age restrictions and increases venue capacities such as in shopping malls," said Abalos.
“We have to defer to the wisdom of the IATF as well as the opinion of those in the medical field. We should seek balance on the physical and mental health of our minors,” he added.
This came amid reports that a 2-year-old contracted COVID-19 after visiting a mall amid looser lockdown restrictions.
The capital region's 13 million people shifted to Alert 2 from Alert 3 last November 4, allowing more businesses to reopen and easing restrictions on going out.
Fairs, "peryas", or kids' amusement areas such as playgrounds, playroom, and kiddie rides were also allowed to operate under the looser quarantine level.
The Department of Health (DOH) earlier described the development as an "isolated case" but local authorities argued that there should be an age limit for minors who go to malls, which are enclosed areas.
COVID-19 vaccination is also currently limited to individuals aged 12 above in the Philippines, while masks are not required for toddlers.
DOH does not require masks in the said age range because masks may restrict air flow and breathing, the agency said.
Children of this age may not yet be able to communicate that they have a hard time breathing.
President Rodrigo Duterte also this week urged local government units in Metro Manila to impose restrictions on unvaccinated minors in public areas.
The Philippines has started the vaccination of minors aged 12 to 17 this month.