THE Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has further relaxed age-based restrictions in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) to allow children 10 years old and above to step out of their homes beginning February 1, 2021.
Under Resolution 95, those mandated to stay at home are persons below 10 years old, those above 65 years old, individuals with immunodeficiencies and comorbidities, and pregnant women.
The resolution, which was adopted on Thursday, January 21, also approved the national deployment and vaccination plan for Covid-19.
The plan will serve as guide for local government units (LGUs) which have been directed to draw up their localized vaccination plans.
The same resolution also approved the request of the Professional Regulation Commission to conduct professional licensure examinations in January to March 2021 under strict health safety protocols.
Meanwhile, exemptions to entry restrictions on countries with reported cases of the new variants of Sars-CoV-2 were amended.
Foreign nationals with valid visas are permitted entry into the country. They include accredited foreign diplomats and personnel of accredited international organizations, provided they will undergo a swab test and a strict 14-day quarantine.
Foreign dignitaries and those who are entering the country for medical and emergency purposes are also allowed, subject to testing and quarantine protocols.
The spouse and minor children of Filipino citizens traveling with them are also permitted entry, subject to testing and quarantine protocols.
Filipino citizens traveling from countries covered by travel restrictions, local diplomats and those who are returning to the country for exceptional and/or medical reasons will be subject to quarantine protocols.
Inbound Filipino passengers will now have to be tested twice, upon arrival and on the fifth day after arrival.
Regardless of the test results, they will now be subject to existing quarantine protocols instead of a strict facility-based quarantine.
Those who test negative after the repeat test are endorsed to their LGUs, which will ensure that the passenger completes the remainder of the 14-day quarantine.
Those who test positive are transferred to isolation facilities.
Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the quarantine policy was amended because of capacity limitations and the increasing number of countries covered by the entry restrictions.
The restrictions, which are being enforced until January 31 unless extended, were imposed in a bid to block the new variants of Sars-CoV-2, which are more contagious although they do not necessarily lead to a more severe form of Covid-19.
In Cebu City, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will not agree to loosening the age restrictions in the city.
EOC deputy chief implementer Councilor Joel Garganera said now is not the right time for Cebu City to adopt the IATF decision.
"Kami dinhi sa EOC mahingusganon kami nga magdumili niana (We here at EOC strongly oppose that)," Garganera said considering that Covid-19 cases in Cebu City are on the uptrend.
Garganera said the City has to solve the rise in cases first before entertaining such a development.
Garganera said LGUs have the final say whether or not to implement provisions set by the IATF in their jurisdictions.
Under Cebu City's current quarantine rules, only those aged 15 to 65 years old are allowed to go out.
As of January 22, Cebu City had 749 active cases of Covid-19, up 535 percent from 118 active cases at the end of 2020.
In Mandaue City, age restrictions will also remain despite the new IATF resolution.
John Eddu Ibañez, executive secretary of Mayor Jonas Cortes, said since the memorandum was only a recommendation, Mandaue City will continue to implement Cortes' previous Executive Order (EO) issued in October 2020 for now.
This means the City will still prohibit those under 15 years old and people above 65 from going out of their homes.
He said the EOC has yet to convene to discuss the IATF recommendation.
"Most probably, if we decide to allow 10-year-olds to go out accompanied by their parents, we will course that through an EO," Ibañez said in Cebuano.
Over the past days, Mandaue City has recorded double-digit Covid cases due to the aggressive contact tracing, Ibañez said.
He said they do not mind the increasing number of cases for as long as all contacts are traced and the patients are isolated.
Mandaue has 186 active cases.
Department of Health (DOH) 7 spokesperson Mary Jean Loreche called on parents to inculcate in the minds of their children the importance of following minimum health protocols should age restrictions be relaxed.
"It is incumbent upon parents to make sure that when they are out, their children are really following the health standards," she said. (With JJL/KFD/WBS)