President Rodrigo Duterte urged local government units (LGU) to pass an ordinance barring unvaccinated minors inside malls and public places to stem a feared resurgence of COVID-19 cases, days after the government lowered the alert level and eased lockdown restrictions in Metro Manila and other areas.
“I am calling on all local government units to consider passing ordinances for age restrictions among minors who can be allowed to go to the malls,” Duterte said during his pre-recorded Talk to the People aired late night on Nov. 15.
He added, “Certainly, they cannot allow those below 12 years old and those who are still unvaccinated to be exposed to the risks of COVID-19 in public places.”
“To the parents and guardians of minors who are unvaccinated, please be mindful of the risk. I hope no one among our children will get COVID-19,” he said.
The President’s call came more than a week after the government shifted its COVID-19 quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila to a more relaxed Alert Level 2 following the decline of daily COVID-19 cases in the country.
According to the Alert Level 2 protocols of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), minors are allowed inside malls provided that they are accompanied by a vaccinated adult.
Following the relaxation of the alert level systems, people flocked to shopping malls, with some families having in tow minors and infants. In a STAR report, this prompted the Metro Manila Development Authority to review mall protocols.
Under Alert Level 2, only 50% indoor capacity is allowed, and an additional 10% if the establishment has a safety seal.
The Philippines is currently inoculating adolescents ages 12 to 17.
Don't bring kids to crowded places—DOH
In the afternoon of Nov. 15, the Department of Health also urged parents not to bring their children in crowded places like malls as they still don’t have protection against COVID-19.
The DOH also noted that children below five years old are not required to wear face masks, which makes them more vulnerable in crowded areas.
“Ang main objective kaya natin in-allow ang mga minors na lumabas is for their mental and physical health—magkaroon ng exposure sa sun, maki-interact sa ibang bata, makapag-exercise,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media briefing on Nov. 15.
“Kapag nakita na po natin na masikip ang mga lugar, huwag na po natin dadalahin ang ating mga kabataan diyan,” she urged parents and guardians.
Vergeire also reiterated that establishments should comply with the capacity restrictions under Alert Level 2.
However, in an interview with Teleradyo, Vergeire said the reported two-year-old child who tested positive for COVID-19 three days after visiting the mall, which was also cited by Duterte in his late night address, was an isolated case.
“Nagpapaalala lang kami na maraming factors that can contribute sa pagkakasakit ng bata. We cannot definitely be certain na galing sa mall 'yan, dahil maraming pwedeng maging exposure ang bata,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) appealed to parents not to bring their unvaccinated children to shopping malls and indoor spaces as threats and risks of COVID-19 are still very much present.
“Kahit anong level ang ipatupad, ang hiling natin sa mga magulang ay huwag muna dalhin sa mga mall ang ating mga anak lalo na sa 11 years old pababa,” PMA president Dr. Benito Atienza said in the Nov. 15 Laging Handa press briefing.
Atienza said since children ages 11 and below have yet to be vaccinated, they should just be brought to parks where social distancing can be observed.
The country is aiming to inoculate at least 80% of 12 million children against COVID-19 before the year ends, while the DOH sees vaccination of minors completed by March 2022.
As of Nov. 15, the Philippines has 31,823, 920 fully vaccinated individuals.