As if to calm down the fuzz over banner reports (not the Daily Tribune) slamming restrictions on senior citizens, presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday clarified that elderlies will not be prohibited from leaving their houses despite the enhanced community quarantine imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a virtual briefing, Roque stressed that contrary to claims of virtual house arrest, senior citizens are allowed to go out when buying essentials or seeking government aid but that they need to take extra care in light of the COVID-19 health crisis.
“Let me reiterate, it’s not true that senior citizens will be jailed, as even President Rodrigo Duterte and other Cabinet members are also senior citizens,” Roque said. “But we are asking them to stay at home, especially those who are immunocompromised.”
“Senior citizens will not be allowed out except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and service or for work in permitted industries and offices,” he added.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez stressed that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is not barring senior citizens from leaving their residences.
“It is just an overall policy presented to the IATF due to the vulnerability of the age segment especially during the quarantine period,” he said. “Of course, seniors who are actively working or running businesses will be allowed.”
Lopez also said those needing medical check-ups and who must buy food and medicine will also be permitted to go out.
On Wednesday, Senior Citizens partylist Rep. Francisco Datol Jr. urged the IATF-EID to reconsider the supposed policy and allow citizens to go out as long as they are practicing social distancing.
We should not isolate them in their homes, as such may be detrimental to their health. They should be allowed to do their errands and work if they are still able,” Datol said.
1-Pacman partylist Rep. Enrico Pineda also proposed that those without high-risk conditions be allowed to go out.
“Key executives in corporations are seniors. The majority of cabinet members are over 60, even President Rodrigo Duterte is a senior citizen, more than 100 congressmen are over 60 years old,” Pineda stressed.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año pointed out the government would consider senior citizens who are still working and those living alone who need to go out to buy essential items such as food and medicines.
Under the current guidelines laid down by the IATF-EID, areas identified with low to moderate risk for COVID-19 infections will be placed under GCQ starting today which means a bit more relaxed implementation of the rules and with some sectors already allowed to operate under a limited capacity.
This, however, excludes those aged 60 and up to protect them from contracting the dreaded viral disease as their advanced age makes them more susceptible to infection.
Uproar over the restrictions imposed on senior citizens under quarantine rules have triggered calls from various quarters for exemptions, including those from two senators who have expressed opposition to the regulation.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Panfilo Lacson, who are both senior citizens, said that the recently-issued guidelines by Malacañang should be reconsidered as there are elderlies who are strong enough to continue their jobs outside their homes.
Drilon, 74, said that the Department of Health (DoH) and the IATF should review and amend the rule which only allows persons aged 20 to 60 years old to go out of their residences.
“If that rule is enforced, (Senate President Vicente) Sotto, Senators (Richard) Gordon, Lacson, (Lito) Lapid and myself cannot attend the Senate sessions starting 4 May,” Drilon said in a text message to reporters.
“And, (President Rodrigo Duterte), (Executive Secretary Salvador) Medialdea, (Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III), among others, should not leave their respective residences. Absurd?
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III himself should not leave his house under this rule,” he added.
Lacson, on the other hand, twitted the Health officials saying they should have themselves checked for releasing such “stupid ideas.”
“Some DoH officials should have their heads examined first by (National Center for Mental Health chief administrative office) Dr. Clarita Avila before coming out with stupid ideas like this latest one,” he said.
For their protection
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, for his part, emphasized the continuing need to protect senior citizens as they remain one of the most vulnerable sectors during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health emergency.
He appealed to affected senior citizens for understanding as the government does its best to protect them and other vulnerable groups from catching the deadly disease since there is still no known and approved cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
“The elderly population should be amply protected, especially as enhanced quarantine community measures in some areas are downgraded to general community quarantine (GCQ),” Go said in a statement.
Official data from the Epidemiology Bureau indicate that people aging 60 years and older account for 43.8 percent of total deaths in the country.
The Senator expressed his support to the imposed guidelines that discourage senior citizens and those with pre-existing medical conditions from leaving their homes given their vulnerability to the virus, subject to certain exemptions as the IATF may determine.
A senior citizen advocate, lawyer Romulo Macalintal, called on the government to let physically fit senior citizens leave their homes under the GCQ — which is a less stringent form of lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a radio interview, Macalintal said that even President Rodrigo Duterte, some members of his Cabinet and many corporate executives are already senior citizens and it’s enough reason to ease restrictions on them,
Employers Confederation of the Philippines president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said not allowing senior citizens or those aged 60 and above, as well as the young or 20 years old and below, to leave their homes during GCQ may lead to people losing their jobs.
He said companies would likely only allow those who do not belong to the two age groups to report to work in order to comply with the government’s directive and leave those aged 18 to 20 years old and 60 and above behind.
with Elmer Manuel, Francis Wakefield, Hananeel Bordey,
and Keith Calayag @tribunephl_lmer @tribunephl_FTW