Cardinal Luis Tagle baptizes a boy in Manila in September 2019. Authorities in the Philippine capital are banning children from public places including churches in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo: UCA News)
Authorities in the Philippine capital Manila have banned children from going out in public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It means parents can be punished for allowing their children to enter shopping malls and churches.
The Dec. 3 announcement by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) came in response to recommendations by medical experts.
The Philippine Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society issued a joint statement on Dec. 2 advising mall owners and parishes to ban people under 18 years old from entering malls and places of worship such as churches.
“Globally and in the Philippines, Covid-19 in the pediatric age range [below 19 years old] is less common compared to adults. However, children and adolescents are susceptible to and can transmit SARS-CoV-2,” they said in the statement.
They fear children could transmit the disease to family members.
MMDA general manager Jose Arturo Garcia Jr. said the ban was not only applicable in malls but also in places of worship.
“Children are also banned from the traditional Simbang Gabi or the novena Masses celebrated at dawn from December 14 to 24. It is better for them to be safe than sorry,” he told a press conference.
Garcia, however, said there could be exceptions to the rule such as going to malls for medical reasons. “The only reason minors could be allowed in public places is if they need medical and dental checkups,” he said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that holding Christmas parties was prohibited, especially if children would be present.
“I discourage family reunions and large social gatherings during the holidays. With our current pandemic situation, any large gathering — especially with children — is considered risky,” Duque told reporters.
Father Joselito Caromayan of Legaspi Diocese said fellow clergymen supported the move as it was for “the common good.”
“I know it is difficult for Filipino families to celebrate Christmas without going to malls. But this [remaining at home] is perhaps an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and to find God not in malls or in parks. Christmas is within us. It is in our hearts,” he told UCA News.
Father Caromayan also cited the continuing rise in Covid cases in the Philippines and a lack of mass testing kits.
As of Dec. 4, the Philippines had recorded 435,413 Covid-19 cases with 8,446 deaths, according to government figures.