No minors in Metro Manila malls, mayors rule

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — Metro Manila mayors have unanimously decided to prohibit children from entering shopping malls following the recommendation of health experts, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said on Thursday. He also said minors are prohibited from attending the traditional simbang gabi.

The 17 local chief executives sought the opinion of health experts following the suggestion of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to allow those under 18 years old to wander in malls to celebrate the Christmas season.

Garcia said children will be allowed in malls for essential trips, such as medical appointments. He said the implementation will be up to mall and establishment owners. He added the enforcement will be the responsibility of local government units and police personnel, and sanctions will depend on local ordinances.

There may be possible loopholes on children roaming in open spaces, but Garcia said it's better for parents to err on the side of caution.

"It is subject to interpretation. Kung may gray area, doon tayo sa conservative side (If there is a gray area, we go with the conservative choice)," he said during a media briefing.

The Philippine Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines recommended that children stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize the risk of infection and transmission. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is also discouraging minors from going to public places, highlighting that at least 3% of the country's total COVID-19 cases are children who contracted the virus.

Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Ong-Lim questioned the suggestion to ease restrictions for minors when the general public is told to be extra cautious during the holiday season.

"Why are children exempted from this recommendation? Why are we saying that we're allowing kids or minors to go out if we're encouraging people to be very careful with their activities?" she told CNN Philippines on Thursday.

Despite the warning of health experts, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque suggested for those in Metro Manila to travel to areas under modified general community quarantine if they're itching to go to malls.

"Ensure na lang po siguro na kung merong malapit na MGCQ area, tignan niyo yung status ng pagpasok ng mga kabataan sa malls at kung allowed pwede naman po bumisita dahil hindi na rin po nirerestrict ang GCQ and MGCQ," he said in a separate briefing.

[Translation: Check if there are areas under MGCQ near you. Check if they allow minors in malls, if they do, you can visit. Travel from GCQ to MGCQ is allowed.]