“They are good in front of the television”

Philippine President Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has banned children aged 10 to 14 from leaving the family home, instead inviting them to watch television, after a new variant of the coronavirus appeared in the country.

Since the start of the pandemic, children and the elderly have been instructed to stay at home in most parts of the archipelago.

Many parents have violated this measure by allowing their children to play in parks or on the streets, but it has pushed families to avoid shopping centers, central to the social life of residents who do most of their spending there.

Some of the restrictions have been lifted to revive the devastated economy, but schools remain closed. Last week, the authorities in charge of managing the epidemic announced that children between the ages of 10 and 14 would be allowed to go out again from February.

This decision was overturned Monday evening by Mr Duterte, who explained that he did not want young children to be infected with the British variant of the coronavirus.

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The Philippines has recorded 17 cases of this more contagious variant, including three children.

All day watching TV

“Go back to your homes (…) and on top of that they are good with just the television. They can focus their attention on television all day,” Duterte said. “I’m just scared because this new strain is hitting young children,” he added.

Hours before the statement, Secretary of State for Commerce Ramon Lopez said allowing children to go out again would help boost consumption and revive businesses hit hard by the restrictions.

Acting Secretary of State for Socio-Economic Planning Karl Kendrick Chua recently explained that half of the economy is supported by “family activities” and without them the economy cannot recover.

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The Philippines, which has nearly 110 million inhabitants, has recorded half a million infections with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, one of the worst results in Southeast Asia.

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The Duterte administration has been criticized for being slow in obtaining vaccine doses, the bulk of which is not expected to arrive until the second half of the year.

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The government is due to release statistics on Thursday which should show that gross domestic product contracted 9.5% last year.

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