CEBU City police on Tuesday called for children under 12 years old to be barred from entering malls following reports that a two-year-old had tested positive for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the capital after the government allowed minors to enter malls.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Wilbert Parilla, deputy city director for operations of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), said the CCPO would make a recommendation to the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to this effect, and that the Cebu City Government, through the EOC, was already crafting plans to avoid putting children at risk.

The call comes after President Rodrigo Duterte himself called on local government units (LGUs) in the country Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 to pass ordinances that will restrict the access of unvaccinated minors to malls and other public places.

Parilla said most children, especially those as young as two years old, do not wear face masks when they enter the mall, which puts them at risk of getting infected with the coronavirus especially since they are unvaccinated.

He said young children tended not to wear their masks properly “because usually children, especially toddlers, don’t like to wear masks so they remove them,” which is unfortunate since they are in the unvaccinated age group, making them prone to catching the virus.

The vaccination of minors in Cebu City began last Oct. 29, but only those aged 12 to 17 have been cleared to get the Covid-19 vaccines.

Parilla urged parents not to bring infants or very young children to malls since this will only endanger their health. Parents have been observed bringing babies and toddlers in strollers.

They will also consult with the legal division of the Police Regional Office 7 on whether parents could be held accountable if they insist on entering the mall with their children.

On Tuesday afternoon, Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the EOC, told SunStar that EOC officials would meet with medical experts, particularly in infectious disease, to examine whether it is appropriate to allow the entry of minors in malls.

Garganera said they are now considering implementing an age limit on the entry of minors who are unvaccinated.

Garganera’s statement follows the call of Visayas Vaccination Operations Center spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche to LGUs to study the matter.

Garganera said they will formulate guidelines for this amid concerns that unvaccinated children will be infected with Covid-19.

But they will do so through a consultation with health experts and the concerned sectors.

In his Talk to the People Address aired online Monday night, Duterte said the government cannot allow those below 12 years old and those still unvaccinated to be exposed to the risk of getting Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

“I am calling all local government units to consider passing ordinances for age restriction among minors who can be allowed to go to the malls,” Duterte said.

He reminded the public that Covid-19 remains a health threat, but it can be defeated by continuing to observe the minimum health protocols and by ramping up the vaccination.

Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles clarified Tuesday, Nov. 16, that LGUs still have the discretion to restrict minors depending on the situations on the ground.

“The call of President Duterte is for LGUs to consider depending on the situation on the ground, depending on the realities on the ground because different LGUs have different present circumstances when it comes to the number of Covid cases. They have the discretion to analyze, study and consider the call of President Duterte that perhaps an ordinance can be passed to limit the entry of unvaxxed minors to malls,” he said.

Misa de Gallo

Meanwhile, Parilla said they will meet with church officials in the coming weeks to discuss security for the Misa de Gallo.

If it is decided that the Misa de Gallo will take place amid the pandemic, the CCPO will suggest to the church officials that only those vaccinated against Covid-19 be allowed to attend.

He said the CCPO will make the proposal since the holding of the Misa de Gallo is different from the holding of regular masses on other days of the year due to the larger crowds that these masses in the lead-up to Christmas tend to draw.

“It will still be difficult (for police to control the situation) considering that the church has a very large range,” he said.

Parilla expressed hope that by the time the Misa de Gallo begins, many more Cebuanos will have been vaccinated so that people’s lives can return to normal by the time the Christmas season is underway. (LMY, AYB, REV)