Fully vaccinated senior citizens are now allowed to go outdoors and visit malls in Metro Manila, the COVID-19 task force said Tuesday.
The government downgraded the alert level system in the National Capital Region from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 over the weekend, easing many restrictions to boost the country’s economy.
“We are not withdrawing the incentive that we gave to vaccinated seniors, who can now go to the malls or go outdoors, it’s still the same,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who is also IATF spokesman.
He said those prohibited from leaving their homes are minors since the COVID-19 vaccination of minors aged 12 to 17 just started on Oct. 15.
But Metro Manila mayors said Sunday minors would be allowed to leave their homes if they are accompanied by an adult.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the Metro Manila Council, composed of the 17 mayors in the National Capital Region, approved a resolution allowing persons aged below 18-years old to leave their homes in the company of a parent or a guardian.
The policy took effect yesterday, Oct. 19.
“The intrazonal and interzonal travel of persons below 18 years old shall be allowed provided that these persons shall be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian at all times,” the resolution stated.
This developed as the Philippines logged on Tuesday 4,496 new cases of COVID-19 — the first time in nearly three months it dropped below 5,000, as the Department of Health (DOH) cited lower laboratory output.
Also, the independent experts OCTA Research Group announced that the COVID-19 reproduction number in the National Capital Region (NCR) decreased to 0.55, the lowest since May.
A government adviser and infectious disease expert also said there is no need to test individuals for COVID-19 if they have no exposure or do not have symptoms since it will yield low positive results.
Interzonal movement is the movement of people, goods and services across areas placed under different community quarantine classifications, while intrazonal movement is the movement of people, goods, and services between localities under the same community quarantine classification, without transiting through an area.
Abalos said local enforcers will call the attention of children if they go outside without an accompanying adult.
The MMC’s decision came a few days after Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 3 status.
The government previously prohibited children from leaving their homes as some experts said they might become “super-spreaders” of COVID-19.
Despite the continuing decline in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, Abalos urged the public to continue to follow health protocols – wear face masks and face shields, avoid crowded areas and observe physical distancing.
Late last week, the Department of Health also started vaccinating minors to protect them against the deadly coronavirus disease, giving priority to those with comorbidities.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) recently expressed its concern to the government’s decision to ban minors from going outside their home, saying the move can be considered an infringement of children’s rights.
The new cases tallied yesterday brought the total number of COVID-19 cases to 2,731,735.
The number of fresh infections is the lowest since July 28, when the country recorded 4,478.
All laboratories were operational, while seven laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the DOH reported.
The DOH also reported 211 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 40,972.
The department also reported 9,609 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,627,126. The number of new recoveries was the lowest number since Oct. 16 when DOH announced 1,634 recoveries.
The DOH also reported 63,637 active cases, of which 79 percent were mild, 5.2 percent were asymptomatic, 2 percent were critical, 4.8 percent were severe, and 8.97 were moderate.
The positivity rate was at 12.4 percent, based on samples of 35,766 individuals tested on Oct. 17.
A total of 47 duplicates were removed from the total case count. Of these, 31 were recoveries. Moreover, 145 cases that were previously tagged as recoveries were reclassified as deaths after final validation.
The DOH earlier said all areas in the country have “peaked and are at a downward trend” following a recent surge in cases.
Metro Manila on Saturday eased to Alert Level 3, allowing more businesses to reopen at a limited capacity.
In a related development, Dr. Edsel Salvana responded to the suggestion of former government adviser Dr. Tony Leachon that the number of COVID-19 tests conducted in the country should reach 100,000 per day to be able to nip transmission in the bud.
“In terms of the total capacity, we are at 70,000 tests per day. If there is surge capacity for testing, we can do 100,000 a day. But the question is, what is the demand for testing? We are testing those who have symptoms and those who have been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19,” Salvana said during the Laging Handa briefing.
“We do not test those without exposure, without symptoms, because it will yield low [positive results]. And even if you do that, there is a chance that it turns out to be false negative. You can have COVID-19 and still test negative in the RT-PCR test. So, the judicious use of our testing is important,” he said.
Salvana said that while the country reached around 27 percent positivity rate last September 5, it has since decreased to 13.8 percent as of October 16. As such, ramping up the number of tests conducted in a day is not necessary.
“The tests are not perfect, so if we do not use them efficiently and use them on low-risk people, the chance of getting false positives is high,” he said.
“If the tests are not enough and yet the positivity rate is going up, then we can say testing is not enough. But if there are less tests done in a day alongside decreased positivity rate, then the number of people getting COVID-19 is also decreasing,” he added.