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DTI to NCR mayors: Ease age curbs

Trade and Industry Sec. Ramon Lopez has enjoined Metro Manila mayors to adopt the t resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to relax age restrictions.

Lopez said the local government units in the National Capital Region are not against the “easing of restrictions per se”.

However, the Metro Manila mayors are also considering the coronavirus disease 2019 situation and healthcare capacity in their respective areas before relaxing certain restrictions, he added.

Last week, the IATF announced the easing of age restrictions from 15 to 65 years old to 10 to 65 years old in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) starting Feb.1.

NCR, which is the center of economic activities and accounts for the biggest chunk of the country’s gross domestic product, is currently under GCQ.

The IATF has yet to announce the new community quarantine qualification for NCR next month.

But if NCR would remain under GCQ in February, Lopez urged Metro Manila mayors to consider easing the age restrictions to restimulate economic activities.

“We are worried that if the sales of businesses continue to be weak, the effect of this is that they will close their stores and there will be displacement of workers,” Lopez said.

He added that since there is still a limitation in the market due to age restriction, businesses have yet to go back to their pre-Covid-19 level in terms of sales.

The DTI chief said even large fast-food chains have been closing their branches as sales remain weak.

“Our principle here is that family expenditure accounts for 30 to 50 percent in commercial areas,” he said.

He added when the IATF gradually allowed the safe reopening of economic activities last year, Covid-19 cases did not surge significantly.

Lopez said the country has found a good balance of protecting lives and livelihood.

“It’s about time that after long (and) many months, we gradually open up other sectors of the economy. This time on the demand side, by easing age limitation,” he said.

The Trade and Industry chief said the minimum health protocol would remain even if the IATF relaxed rules on the age groups allowed to go outside of their residence.

“We never relaxed the health protocol. That is the key we have seen so that we can gradually and safely reopen and not worsen Covid-19 cases with this easing of age restriction,” he said.