Experts: Allowing seminars, minors in malls goes against ‘sensible pandemic management’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 9) — Experts from the OCTA Research Group urged the national government to reconsider its directive allowing conferences and children in malls, warning in a report released Wednesday that they could turn into "dangerous superspreader" events.

The national government recently allowed limited in-person seminars, trade shows, and the like to be held in areas under general community quarantine. It also authorized local governments to issue ordinances allowing children inside malls in time for the Christmas season. Citing health risks, Metro Manila mayors have thumbed down the suggestion of Interior Chief Eduardo Año to allow kids to wander in public places.

OCTA said it understands that the easing of quarantine rules in areas that remain at-risk for community transmissions are done for economic reasons, but it said that this could trigger another COVID-19 wave.

"Given the reality of significant outbreaks still in many GCQ areas, we believe that at this time, these directives are risky and opposed to good/sensible pandemic management," it said in a report dated December 8.

The Department of Health earlier said virtual events would still be the safest route to stay protected from COVID-19.

"Kahit pinapayagan ang ganitong activities, kailangan cautious and vigilant pa rin tayo... Most importantly, kung kaya pa rin na virtual, of course that would be more acceptable for us at mas nirerekomenda natin dahil dito maiiwasan ang paghahawa-hawa," Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said on December 4.

[Translation: Even if these activities are allowed, we need to stay cautious and vigilant... Most importantly, go virtual if possible. That's what we recommend, that's more acceptable to us so we can avoid transmission.]

The country has 442,785 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 25,325 of which are active infections. It has recorded 8,670 deaths and 408,790 recoveries.