CITING threat posed by a more contagious mutated coronavirus strain, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the proposal of his own pandemic response team to allow children aged 10 to 14 to step out of their homes in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) starting next month.
In his public address Monday night, Duterte said he was “forced” to maintain the existing rule that only 15 to 65 years old will be allowed to go out to limit the movement of children.
“I am compelled — it has nothing to do with the incompetence, none at all. It’s just a precaution because there is a strain discovered in the Cordillera that is very similar to the strain discovered in the United Kingdom,” Duterte said.
“I trust that our doctors, our medical workers, are competent enough to determine this situation. So let’s remain at home first,” he added.
To date, 34 Filipinos who had close contact with a dozen patients infected with variant B117 have tested positive for the virus.
Taking cue from the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s earlier pronouncement which hinted the new variant, first discovered in southeast London, might be deadlier than the dominant ones apart from being more contagious, Duterte cited the need to be cautious.
“Once it is confirmed that children can be infected, well, that order will subsist until such time that everybody will be safe by the vaccine,” Duterte added.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) “unanimously” approved last week to ease age-based restrictions on account of the economy.
Prior to that, the task force only allowed people aged 15 to 65 years old to go out amid the continuing Covid-19 threat.
The IATF’s announcement drew concerns from medical groups and statisticians monitoring pandemic figures.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who concurrently serves as IATF mouthpiece, defended the decision by saying it would be good for a children’s “social and mental health” since they have stayed in their homes for 10 months due to government-imposed lockdowns.
Roque also cited observations that 10-year-old children have started to develop their cognitive skills of following instructions from adults and were “less frisky” compared to their younger peers.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who also serves as IATF co-chair, even said that the task force will issue a “clarificatory resolution” to indicate that children cannot just go outside their homes if they are unaccompanied by their parents.”