MANILA — An infectious diseases expert on Thursday urged local government units to consider reopening parks during the holiday season, as children are still not allowed in malls because of the lingering threat of COVID-19.
Dr. Benjamin Co said even with safety measures against the novel coronavirus, there is no guarantee that going to malls is safe for those allowed.
“You have to remember that it is still an enclosed area and it is very difficult to keep physical distancing in an enclosed area,” Co said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
He instead recommended going to parks where the public, especially the children, could enjoy the open space, which reduces the chances of contracting the virus.
“The open air parks are beautiful. I think it is time to let our children enjoy the outdoor environment, instead of going to areas where the risk may actually be higher,” Co said.
The expert cited the Rizal Park in Manila where the local government unit could limit the number of people and how long they could stay in the area.
“I heard over the news regarding Luneta. That is a perfect example, that they will limit the hours, and they will limit the people that may be allowed to go in, and, perhaps an idea, not only limit the amount of people, but you limit their time,” he said.
MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia announced on Wednesday that Metro Manila mayors unanimously voted to disallow minors outside of their homes, including going to malls, despite eased lockdown restrictions.
Garcia said the mayors heeded the advice of the Philippine Pediatric Society on the matter.
But he clarified that children may be allowed to go out for essential purposes, which involve dental or medical check-ups, among others.
WATCH: Metro Manila mayors still disallow minors outside of residence due to COVID-19 threat
‘Children risk spreading COVID-19’
Co, meanwhile, pointed out that studies from other countries have proved children tend to exhibit milder symptoms than adults but still have the capability to be spreaders of the disease.
He also notes that the capital region remains to be among the COVID-19 epicenters, despite registering fewer infections in the past few weeks.
Because of this, the expert said it is up to parents to weigh the benefits and risks whenever they take their children out even on essential errands.
“I cannot tell the parents what to do and what not to do because they should know their own communities, because the government will just give you a general recommendation,” he said.
Dr. Jocelyn Alonzo Eusebio, president of the Philippine Pedriatric Society, who the Metro Manila Council consulted, had said minors posed a public-health risk if they turned out to be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus.
"Maaaring hindi nga symptomatic kasi marami nang obserbasyon na hindi nga malala ang COVID-19 infections sa mga bata, pero p'wede naman silang maging carriers," Eusebio said in a TeleRadyo interview on Wednesday night.
"At kung sila ay umuwi sa bahay at mayroon silang kasamahan sa bahay na lolo at lola na immuno-compromised, na mga kamag-anak, talagang sila po ay makakakuha ng impeksyon na iyon."
(They might be asymptomatic since there are observations that COVID-19 infections among children aren't severe, but they might turn out to be carriers. And if they have relatives at home who are immuno-compromised like their grandparents, there might be transmissions.)
"Totoo namang sobrang inip na inip na po ang ating mga kabataan, dahil children are supposed to be active, going around. Kaso confined nga sila sa loob ng kanilang bahay. So understandable ang mga ganoong emotions," she said.
"[Pero] lagi nating isaisip, the benefit will outweigh the risk. 'Yan po ang laging isaisip natin, lalo na ang mga magulang."
(It's true that children are bored because they are supposed to be active, going around. But instead, they are confined inside their homes. So, those emotions are understandable. But let us always keep in mind that the benefit will outweigh the risk.)
Co advised parents to carefully plan outdoor trips, and avoid peak hours and crowded places including areas with high risks of transmission.
Handwashing, frequent disinfection, and wearing face masks for children above 3 years old should also be practiced, he said.