Duterte reverses IATF decision allowing children aged 10-14 to go out in MGCQ areas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 26) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday reversed an earlier decision by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to allow children aged 10 to 14 to go out of their homes in areas under modified general community quarantine or MGCQ starting February.

The president cited the threat of the new COVID-19 variant.

"Pasensya na po kayo, mine is just a precaution. Takot lang ako, kasi itong bagong strain strikes young children," Duterte said in his weekly national address with other Cabinet members.

[Translation: I’m very sorry, mine is just a precaution. I’m just afraid that this new variant strikes young children.]

Children aged five and 10 were among the COVID-19 patients found with the latest variant in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

"There's a strain discovered in Cordillera that is very similar dito sa strain sa United Kingdom (There's a variant discovered in Cordillera that is very similar to the variant in the United Kingdom). How it got there is beyond me," Duterte said. "Balik ho kayo sa bahay muna (Just stay home for now)."

The earlier decision to allow children aged 10 to 14 to go out was done in line with the goal of balancing health and the economy.

"Once it is confirmed na talagang mga bata ay tinatamaan (Once it is confirmed that children are vulnerable)... well that order will subsist until such time that everybody will be safe by the bakuna (vaccine)," Duterte said.

The new coronavirus variant first detected in the UK was said to be more lethal than previous ones, according to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also said on Monday the IATF will meet on Tuesday to discuss the new community quarantine classifications for February.

During his virtual briefing on Tuesday, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque defended the chief executive's decision.

"Bagama't sinabi nga ni Presidente, naintindihan ko naman kung bakit kinakailangan ganiyang magdesisyon kaya lang siyempre, noh, tatay at lolo po ang ating Presidente," Roque said. "Ang kanyang pangunahing concern ay pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng ating mga kabataan."

[Translation: While the President said he understands the need for the initial decision, he is first and foremost a father and a grandparent. With this, his primary concern is taking care of the youth's health.]

Roque also dismissed criticisms on the government's apparent backpedaling on decisions related to the pandemic, noting this is but the second time the President has recalled a recommendation by the IATF.

The first time, Roque said, was the supposed pilot of face-to-face classes in select schools in areas tagged as low-risk for COVID-19. He noted Duterte also had in mind the new COVID-19 variant when he made that decision.