The health department cautioned parents from bringing children to crowded establishments more than a week after the pandemic task force said that minors in the metro are now allowed outdoors.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Monday said that parents should refrain from bringing their children to such crowded establishments, especially since children below 5 years old are not required to wear face masks due to potential breathing problems.
“Sana ‘yung ating mga magulang, ang ating mga guardians, ‘pag nakita natin na medyo masikip na ‘yung pupuntahan natin, ‘wag na natin isama ang ating mga anak para makaiwas sa mga ganitong mga sakit,” she was quoted as saying in a press briefing.
“The very reason why children were allowed to go out is because of their health, so they can exercise outdoors, get sunlight, interact with other children — not for them to be brought to crowded establishments like malls,” Vergeire added.
Her comments came after the Palace said on November 5 that children in the National Capital Region are now allowed to go out of their homes following the metro’s downgrade to Alert Level 2 of the quarantine classification system.
Alert Level 2 allows minors to be in indoor establishments, whether they are vaccinated or not.
Kid amusement industries are likewise allowed to operate on this level.
The health official also urged establishments to regularly check if they are observing the allowed indoor capacity level based on the government’s guidelines.
“It should work both ways. Establishments must be able to comply with what was issued as policy of the IATF with regards to capacity. The local government units (LGUs) must also enforce the policies and the strict enforcement on the required capacity,” she said.
IATF refers to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease or IATF-EID.
Under Alert Level 2, indoor venues are allowed to operate at 50% maximum capacity for fully vaccinated people and minors while outdoor venues are allowed a 70% capacity.
Meanwhile, those who learned of the DOH’s comments to minors’ parents called on the health agency to issue clearer guidelines when it comes to children and traveling.
“We need concrete policy, DOH. Pinayagan niyo ang mga bata na makapasok ulit sa mga malls na naturalmente ay hindi maayos ang ventilation, tapos sa magulang niyo ibabagsak ang responsibilidad?” a Twitter user said in response to the reports.
“As usual, hilaw nanaman ang execution ng mga bagong guidelines. Wala naman kasi nakalagay na bawal ang bata sa mall. Fix the guidelines before another surge begins, smh (shaking my head),” another online user said.
A different Filipino commented that there is an abundance of malls in NCR, making DOH’s warnings potentially unlikely for some parents to follow through.
“Kaso malls lang ‘yun madalas sa Metro Manila, e,” he wrote in response to Vergeire’s remarks on children and malling.
In the same press briefing, the DOH official said that it is already up to the LGUs on whether they will implement restrictions against minors in terms of mall visits.
The government is already inoculating minors aged 12 to 17 years old against COVID-19. They are receiving either Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines brands, the jabs with the highest efficacy rate among coronavirus vaccines.