Children are not yet allowed inside shopping malls in Metro Manila pending the report of health experts, an official said on Wednesday.
MMDA General Manager Jojo Garica said all 17 mayors in Metro Manila agreed to retain the restrictions on non-essential trips while awaiting the “facts” from the Philippine Pediatric Society.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday said gradual easing of age restrictions will be allowed. He said areas under general community quarantine are allowed to accept minors accompanied by their parents inside malls to celebrate the Christmas season, pending ordinances to be issued by mayors.
The Metro Manila Council, composed of the mayors and MMDA, previously veered away from the easing of age restrictions. Instead of following restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 task force for those aged 15 and below, and 65 and above, the council expanded the coverage by banning those below 18 years old from going out for leisure.
Garcia said health experts are set to present data on COVID-19 transmission and health risks in children during the emergency meeting of Metro Manila mayors. A “unified” decision is expected on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the PPS and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines recommended in a joint statement that children should stay home.
“Since the possibility of children getting infected from adults with COVID-19 is established and some evidence have pointed that children are likewise capable of transmitting SARS-CoV 2 to susceptible individuals regardless of age, it is strongly recommended by pediatricians for children to remain at home to minimize the risk of getting infected and lower viral transmission,” the statement said.
Citing a study in the United States, PIDSP president Mary Ann Bunyi said children could easily transmit a virus as some do not exhibit symptoms at all.
“Merong ibang bata walang simptomas (There are some children who do not have symptoms) and yet they are infected with the virus. They have seen some young children to be super spreaders, meaning kahit wala silang simptomas, marami silang nahahawa (they can infect many people even without showing symptoms),” she said in a virtual presser.
The PPS and the PIDSP defined the pediatric age group as those 19 years old and below.
However, PPS president Joselyn Eusebio said minors as young as 15 years old could be allowed to go to the malls given they are responsible enough to follow health precautions.
“To be honest about it, if an adolescent at 15 years is capable of practicing safety measures, I’m sure that is their basis (government) and it can also be our basis for allowing to go out to the malls,” she said.
For his part, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is against allowing minors to wander in public places, highlighting that at least 3% of the country’s total COVID-19 cases are children who contracted the virus.
“Hindi sila exempted sa hawaan… Pwedeng sila din ang maging sanhi ng pagkalat at magkakaroon tayo ng mataas na impeksyon. We discourage this. Huwag na po lumabas ang mga bata,” he said in a separate forum.
[Translation: They are not exempted from transmission. They can also transmit the virus. We discourage this. Do not let the children go out.]
The Philippines has 434,357 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday.