Seniors up in arms over quarantine rules
ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said government’s rule of 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.
STAR/Miguel De Guzman, file

Seniors up in arms over quarantine rules

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and congressmen yesterday raised concern over the government’s directive prohibiting senior citizens and young people from going outside under the general community quarantine (GCQ).

ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said government’s rule of 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.

While more businesses would be allowed to resume operations under the less stringent GCQ, he said companies would be restoring operations in phases, and the young and elderly would not be prioritized in going back to work.

Congressmen yesterday also urged the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases to reconsider the ban on elderly people going out of their homes in quarantine areas after senior citizens complained of unfair treatment.

Reps. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and Ron Salo of Kabayan party-list said it would be unfair for the government to prohibit senior citizens, including legislators, from performing their duties.

“Like many of us public officials who are 60 years old and above, they are physically fit to work and move around,” Rodriguez insisted. “I can understand and even share their sentiments.

“Some have retired from the government or the private sector, and a big number of them now run their own small businesses while some are captains of industry,” the chairman of the House committee on constitutional reforms stressed.

Rodriguez said he had received various complaints from senior citizens and other constituents against the IATF regulation.

Salo believes the ban on the elderly going out of their house is “inhumane at worst or ill-thought of at the least.”

“No less than our President, most members of the Supreme Court and Cabinet officials, as well as chairpersons of most companies, belong to this category,” he said.

“Protecting them from COVID-19 does not justify complete disregard of their civil liberties as well as their right to gainful employment and practice of their profession,” said Salo, chairman of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. of Ako Bicol party-list, however, disagreed with the two congressmen.

“Encouraging older adults to stay at home is based on science. Data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious illness from the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization,” he pointed out.

“This ought to be top of mind for people over 60, and those with underlying health problems, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems,” Garbin stressed.

“People over 70 were instructed by the government to stay in strict isolation at home or in care homes for four months, under a ‘wartime-style’ mobilization effort by the government,” he said.

Sen. Bong Go appealed to the government to look after the welfare of senior citizens, particularly access to medicine, amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The chairman of the Senate committee on health and demography said senior citizens’ benefits are part of Republic Act No. 9994, or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010” for the welfare of the elderly.

He said RA 9994 states that senior citizens are entitled to the grant of 20 percent discount and exemption from the value-added tax (VAT), if applicable, on the purchase of medicines and other essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment to be determined by the Department of Health (DOH).

“It is not safe for senior citizens. They are part of one of the vulnerable sectors in society that could easily get infected with COVID 19. We have to give them the necessary attention and properly implement the law to protect their welfare,” Go said.

Go also appealed to the national government, particularly the DOH, to make sure that medicines and other supplements needed by the elderly population are available in all drugstores and establishments.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. called on the IATF to include the plight of senior citizens in the agenda, since a majority of Cabinet members are seniors.

“Well, they will finalize the list of industries that can open in GCQ areas, number one, and I hope they will also discuss exceptions to the rule that 60 years old and above will have to stay home,” he said during an ANC interview yesterday.

“Actually, I’ve been hounded by senior citizens since that announcement came out because apparently the 60-plus seniors are the decision makers in different companies, including government… I mean, I think 80 percent of the Cabinet (secretaries) are senior citizens as well,” he said.

Roque expressed hope the IATF will take a second look at the guidelines for GCQ, which provides that persons below 21 years old and those 60 years old and above as well as those with health risk factors should stay home despite the relaxation of regulations.

Warmer malls

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said shopping malls that will reopen in areas under relaxed quarantine are required to set their air-conditioning units at higher thermostat to prevent crowding.?“The general rule is unlike in the past when we go to the malls for recreation and leisure, they (mall owners) will keep the temperature rather warm at 26 (degrees Celsius) so that people will not be loitering in the malls,” Roque told ABS-CBN News Channel. ?Restrictions in areas with low to moderate risks will be downgraded from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to GCQ by May 1.

Under ECQ, public mass transportation is suspended and only essential businesses and services are allowed to operate. Once an area is placed under GCQ, some forms of public transport can operate but in reduced capacity.

Select establishments, including malls, may reopen but should observe health standards.?Roque said mall operations in GCQ areas would be limited.?“Not all the stores will be allowed to open. In addition to banks, in addition to restaurants for take-out and hardware, we will now be allowing retail stores selling clothes,” the Palace spokesman said. ?“It will be subject to very strict hygiene standards, including temperature check and the availability of alcohol and mandatory wearing of face masks,” he added. ?The IATF members met yesterday to discuss GCQ guidelines and to finalize the list of industries that may reopen under the “new normal.”

Roque said “substantially all kinds of industries” may reopen under GCQ except those that entail mass gathering.?“That’s why the entertainment industry is still shut, leisure is still shut. In other words, non-essentials will remain shut but all the industries that will propel the economy will be allowed to open although some of them, between 50 to 100 percent capacity,” he added. ?Roque said it is important to monitor what would happen in GCQ areas because this would determine what could be implemented nationwide. ?The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said people who want to transfer from high-risk areas to towns or cities where the status would soon be downgraded to GCQ will have to undergo self-quarantine.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said on Tuesday that people who want to go home to the provinces after being stranded in Metro Manila when government imposed the lockdown last March should undergo the 14-day quarantine in their home provinces.

Año said quarantine is necessary especially if an individual is asymptomatic.

He did not say if the person would have to undergo quarantine in a government facility or just stay home.

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is set to release the pension of retired public servants earlier than scheduled this May.

GSIS president and general manager Rolando Macasaet said the pension will be released on May 5 instead of May 8.

“Since May 1 is a holiday, on May 5, we will release early the pension of GSIS members,” he added.

Economic managers might look for other sources of funds to sustain the social amelioration program in the event the lockdown will have to be extended, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said yesterday.

Chua told radio station dzMM that the government would prioritize the prevention of the second or third wave of infections which will be more disastrous.

“Our social amelioration program is good for full two months of ECQ. If this exceeds two months, perhaps what economic managers will do is to assess where we can get resources,” he said in Filipino.

“But what is important is we prevent the occurrence of second and third wave of infections like what happened in other countries. This will be worse. So we should not be pressured into immediately reopening our economy.”

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act provides for an emergency cash subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 for 18 million poor families for two months starting April. -With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Emmanuel Tupas, Alexis Romero, Mary Grace Padin, Czeriza Valencia, Louella Desiderio, Christina Mendez

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