The Palace announced Friday the easing of age restrictions in areas under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), where people aged 10 to 65 years will be allowed to leave their homes starting Feb. 1.
Previously, only those aged 15 to 65 years living in MGCQ areas were allowed to go out.
The decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) said areas under a general community quarantine (GCQ) like Metro Manila could decide whether or not to follow the relaxed age restrictions.
IATF vice chairman and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the easing of age restrictions would help revive the retail industry.
“Based on the survey that we had, retail activities can easily bounce back to double or triple sales if children, 10 years to 14 years, are allowed to visit malls and other retail establishments with parents,” he said.
He said the movement restrictions during the holiday season dampened consumers’ appetite and contributed to the slowdown in retail activities, which went back to a lockdown level of 20 percent from 70 percent in October-November 2020.
Lopez said the slow retail sales could cause another spike in unemployment numbers.
“We’re still a long way from the pre-COVID unemployment rate of 5 percent. Right now, unemployment is at 8.7 percent. We do not want retail woes to lead to mass lay-offs,” he said.
Lopez said the decline in COVID-19 cases was one reason the IATF relaxed age restrictions.
In GCQ areas, the IATF has given the prerogative to local government units to decide on their own if they are inclined to ease age restrictions, depending on the situation on the ground.
“Just a reminder to everybody, we are relaxing protocols to expand the coverage of those allowed outside of home access but let us continue to be strict on our protocol on face masks and face shields,” Lopez said.
He added that the Philippines, unlike other countries, has never had another surge.
“Let’s keep that way. We just need to follow the protocols and continue the reopening of sectors so we can hasten economic recovery,” he said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, meanwhile, said Metro Manila mayors would be consulted on the easing of age restrictions.
She said the IATF’s decision to ease age-based restrictions was to balance health and the economy.
The Department of Trade and Industry has been pushing to allow minors to go out of their homes to increase demand and family consumption, thereby helping in economic recovery.
The Philippines logged 2,178 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, the highest in two months, bringing the total to 509,887, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
The country has been logging fewer than 2,000 cases this week, except on Monday.
Health authorities had expected a rise in cases after the bustle of activity over the holidays. The country is also on alert for the new, more contagious COVID-19 variant, with one confirmed case so far who has just recovered.
The DOH reported 20 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 10,136, which is 1.99 percent of the total cases.
The DOH also reported 250 newly-recovered patients, bringing the total number of recoveries to 467,720, which is 91.7 percent of the total.
That left 32,031 active cases, which is 6.3 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 83.6 percent are mild; 9.5 percent are asymptomatic; 4.1 percent are critical; 2.3 percent are severe, and 0.42 percent are moderate.
The OCTA Research Team said Friday that the rate of increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region is slowing down.
“The trend in new cases in NCR has leveled off. The number of new cases increased on Jan. 6 as all testing centers in NCR resumed regular operations, but has since leveled off,” OCTA said, in its Philippine COVID-19 Report.
It said that January has already completed its third week, but showed no “residual effect” of the holidays on cases in Metro Manila.
In particular, the week-to-week average number of daily cases in NCR decreased to 405 from 435 in the previous week.
Moreover, OCT said, “the reproduction number R0 n NCR has been more or less steady and is now 1.07.” While this is above 1, it shows the increase in the number of cases is slowing down.
“The positivity rate in NCR over the past week remained at 4 percent below the 5 percent recommended by the World Health Organization,” it said, adding that Metro Manila’s average is over 18,000 PCR tests daily.
Also on Friday, the Bureau of Immigration said diplomats, spouses, and children of Filipinos who came from 35 restricted countries can enter the country, but have to follow health protocols. Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said arriving foreign diplomats and personnel of accredited international organizations will be referred to the airport’s one-stop-shop for the usual testing and quarantine protocols. Also allowed in the latest resolution are the spouse and minor children of Filipinos. Morente also clarified that dual citizens holding both a Philippine and foreign citizenship will be allowed entry upon presentation of a valid Philippine passport, or their certificate of citizenship.