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âSeniors can go to work, buy goodsâ
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez made the clarification in a Viber message yesterday after the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and lawmakers raised concern over the possible imposition of a quarantine rule prohibiting senior citizens and people below 20 years old from leaving their homes.
Presidential Photo

‘Seniors can go to work, buy goods’

Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - May 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senior citizens actively working or who are on an errand for essential goods are allowed to go out during the quarantine period, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said yesterday.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez made the clarification in a Viber message yesterday after the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and lawmakers raised concern over the possible imposition of a quarantine rule prohibiting senior citizens and people below 20 years old from leaving their homes.

“IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) is not insisting seniors would be under house arrest,” Lopez said.

He said the IATF presented the plan to have senior citizens or those 60 years old and above stay home, citing their vulnerability to coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 especially during quarantine periods.

He said senior citizens with work or those running businesses would be allowed to go out of their homes. The government would be issuing IDs for these senior citizens.

“We’re also allowing of course, those needing medical check up procedures, buying food, medicines,” Lopez said.

Under IATF guidelines, those 21 years old and below, and 60 years old and above, or those with immunodeficiency, comorbidities or with other health risks, and pregnant women shall be required to remain in their residences at all times during the quarantine period.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the general rule stays although exemptions are allowed, especially for members of the Duterte Cabinet and others who need to leave their residences to work or do essential activities.

ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said earlier that barring senior citizens, as well as those aged 18 to 20 years old, from going out may lead to job losses.

He said companies are likely to prioritize only those in age groups allowed by government to go back to work.

Reps. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and Ron Salo of Kabayan party-list have asked for the restriction on senior citizens to be reconsidered, to allow them – including lawmakers – to continue their functions.

Areas considered to have low to moderate risk of COVID-19 would be placed under the less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) starting today.

High-risk areas like Metro Manila, Central Luzon except Aurora, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Iloilo, Cebu, Bacolod City and Davao City, meanwhile, would continue to be under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until May 15.

Gov’t priority

Sen. Bong Go emphasized the government is prioritizing senior citizens and other sectors most vulnerable to COVID-19 or to the impact of the ongoing quarantine in its efforts to address the health crisis.

“The entire government under President Duterte is doing everything to protect the welfare of Filipino people and end this crisis,” Go said as he appealed to the public for full cooperation to ensure the safety of all affected Filipinos.

“All we want is to protect your welfare. More patience please; we’re doing this to make sure you’re alright so we can survive this crisis,” Go, chairman of the Senate health committee, said.

“Based on data, we can see the population of the elderly is the most vulnerable to COVID-19. They should be more careful,” he said.

“The government just wants to make sure that we’re all safe and protected – that there will be no further spread of the virus once we’re allowed to go out,” he said. “We don’t want a second wave of infection, we’re working to ensure our health system does not collapse.”

“This is not forever. Let us help each other to protect those vulnerable to the virus. From ECQ to GCQ, we all want the situation to normalize,” Go said.

While expressing support for restricting the movement of senior citizens and those with pre-existing medical conditions, Go said certain exemptions should be allowed for those gainfully employed or those needing to buy basic necessities or seek health services.

Go earlier urged the Department of Health to make sure essential medicines are available to senior citizens. He also reminded the government to properly implement Republic Act No. 9994 or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.”

He has also urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development to immediately release the social pension of qualified indigent senior citizens up to as much as the equivalent of their six-month social pension during quarantine.

Earlier, Rodriguez said Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta should review and reconsider the high court’s order prohibiting elderly lawyers aged 60 and above from attending trials.

Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional reforms, was protesting the judiciary’s Administrative Circular 36 issued last April 27.

“This rule discriminates against senior lawyers, whom clients naturally prefer because of their experience from long years of practice. It also runs counter to the constitutional principle that an accused should have a lawyer of his choice,” he said.

In the circular, Peralta said lawyers who are more than 59 years old “may attend their hearings on urgent matters, except those suffering from any illness, or who appear sickly and weak.”

“If available, younger lawyers should be sent instead, since their appearances anyway will be limited to urgent matters and not for trial proper,” the circular stated.

Rodriguez said he received numerous messages from fellow lawyers protesting the SC rule, with some sending their complaints directly to Peralta.

“They feel this is important, especially in the light of the fact that those abused by the authorities in the implementation of ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) or GCQ need legal advice and representation,” he stressed.

‘Downright insensitive’

Sen. Panfilo Lacson called the IATF prohibition on senior citizens arbitrary and “downright insensitive.”

“The dire question is: When will we see other sweeping and irrational moves? Many senior citizens are far healthier and have stronger immune systems than their younger counterparts. To indiscriminately prohibit them from going out of their homes is not only arbitrary, it is downright insensitive.”

“Just to give credence to my argument: Some of my male staff at the Senate who are younger than me couldn’t catch up with me when taking stairs to the sixth floor of the Senate building where my office is located. Others easily catch colds or cough while I always have strong immune system,” he noted.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano confirmed employed senior citizens are exempted from the restrictions and would only need to show their company IDs if they need to go to work.

Barangay officials are also authorized to issue quarantine passes to senior citizens living alone to buy essential goods by themselves.

Año claimed that about 80 percent of COVID-19 cases involving senior citizens were fatal or severe.

“That’s the analytics, that’s the evidence of science – cases involving people their age are fatal. But let’s understand the situation of seniors who are employed, who are company executives or are living alone as retirees,” he said over radio dzBB.

He noted that current laws allow senior citizens to work until they are 65 years old.

For Shelley dela Vega, a geriatrician of the Institute of Aging of the National Institute of Health in UP Manila, Filipino senior citizens are generally robust and healthy enough to work.

But she acknowledged that seniors become vulnerable to illnesses such as COVID, not because of their age, but because of pre-existing conditions common among old people like diabetes and hypertension.

With the transition to new normal, Dela Vega said elderly people can still work, but they must practice frequent hand washing, social distancing and wearing of mask to protect themselves from COVID.

Dela Vega also suggested that elderly people be provided with flu vaccine. “Though it is not protection from COVID, at least they have protection from influeza, an illness that may require hospitalization,” she said. - Cecille Suerte-Felipe, Christina Mendez, Delon Porcalla, Romina Cabrera, and Mayen Jaymalin,

RAMON LOPEZ
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