MINORS below 15 years old will no longer be allowed to enter supermarkets and grocery stores in Cebu City.

In a directive issued Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, the Cebu City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) directed supermarkets and grocery stores to deny such minors entry to their premises immediately.

City Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases-Cebu City EOC, also warned that more adjustments on the movement of minors would be forthcoming.

Thursday’s directive was signed by Garganera, Cebu City Acting Mayor Donaldo Hontiveros, and Jared Limquiaco, officer-in-charge-head of the city’s Business Permit and Licensing Office. The EOC said the measures were intended to mitigate the risk of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) transmission in these traditionally high-traffic areas during the holidays.

The establishments were urged to consider putting up a well-ventilated space where the minors could wait as their parents or guardians shopped.

In addition, they were directed to ensure proper ventilation through exhaust systems or the opening of doors or windows.

The establishments were also encouraged to monitor the air quality in their premises “through non-dispersive infrared carbon dioxide sensors” and to undertake mitigation measures if carbon dioxide levels should rise.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Wilbert Parilla, deputy city director for operation of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), welcomed the development, saying it would be better for minors under 15 to stay home since most of them are unvaccinated against Covid-19.

He said the decline in new Covid-19 cases in the city was not a reason to be complacent since the numbers could easily surge if the people let their guard down.

According to the Department of Health, Cebu City had 225 active Covid-19 cases as of Nov. 17.

In an interview earlier in the day, Garganera said supermarkets should monitor the volume of shoppers, which is pegged at 50 percent of venue capacity.

“They have to indicate outside the establishment the number of people they can accommodate. Second, they should have a number system wherein only when your number is called, you can get in. The queue lane outside should also be monitored.

Third, which we employed already, we should have a CO2 (carbon dioxide) detector, which we are slowly introducing,” Garganera said.

The councilor said infectious disease specialist Dr. Bryan Lim would explain to them the importance of a CO2 detector and how to use it properly so shoppers would be safe inside the grocery.

“And lastly, considering that every individual counts, we agreed that children (below) 15 will not be allowed to enter the grocery,” Garganera said.

Garganera explained that to curb the risk of infection, they want only those who really need to visit the grocery to be in there.

“Because they (children) will be counted with the crowd and as much as possible, we want only those who have purposes to visit the grocery to be in there. ... We will start with the groceries,” Garganera said.

He said children would continue to be allowed to enter malls.

“The malls will be dealt with later, but we will be coming up with guidelines for that soon,” he said.

Earlier in the week, President Rodrigo Duterte had called on local governments to bar children under 12 years old from entering malls following reports that a two-year-old in the capital had tested positive for Covid-19 after the government allowed minors to enter malls.

The pediatric vaccination currently being held against Covid-19 is only for minors aged 12 to 17.

After Cebu City was placed under Alert Level 2, unvaccinated minors were allowed to enter establishments operating at up to 50 percent indoor venue capacity if accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.

The EOC official said there would be changes to the guidelines the City has set. For instance, he raised the question of “kiddie stories” allowed to operate.

“If you allow kiddie stores to operate, kids to go there and play, that is more than face to face. That is contact. And they are unvaccinated,” Garganera said.

Playgrounds, playrooms and kiddie rides are among the activities allowed to operate in areas under Alert Level 2.

The EOC official also explained why adults must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to use indoor venues, while minors don’t.

“Does it mean to say that the child will not be contaminated? Actually, there is no science in it. ... The point that we are driving at is that if the kids want to go out, and their parents or guardians are unvaccinated, then their parents and guardians will be forced to get vaccinated,” Garganera said.

Garganera is encouraging everybody to get vaccinated, for their own sake and others’ piece of mind.

“This all boils down to vaccination. We have to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. That is the point,” Garganera said.

As of Nov. 16, only 45.63 percent of the eligible population in Cebu City has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the Visayas Covid-19 Vaccination Operations Center. (CAL, CTL, AYB)