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The move is meant to improve the mental health of children, who have been cooped up at home since the start of pandemic lockdowns in March last year. Last week children aged five and up were finally allowed to go to selected areas outdoors, but only if accompanied by adults. The easing is in effect only in areas under general community quarantine except those under heightened restrictions, and areas under modified GCQ.

Allowing children outdoors undoubtedly is also meant to stimulate the economy. Many parents prefer to stay home or avoid travel if they can’t bring along their young children. Even with food deliveries gaining popularity, families with children tend to order more when they dine in.

COVID-19, however, is far from vanquished. The coronavirus is constantly mutating, and its most virulent variant is now in the Philippines. The country has seen what the Delta variant unleashed in India where it was first detected. Delta is currently sweeping Indonesia and has forced Thailand to impose a lockdown.

There are warnings about a Delta-driven COVID fourth wave even in countries that are leading in the vaccination drive such as the United States and United Kingdom, where Delta has become the dominant strain. There are increasing reports of breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated in these countries.

With Delta cases reported in the Philippines, mayors of Metro Manila want to suspend the move allowing children outdoors. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is expected to act today on the mayor’s petition.

Epidemiologists have emphasized that vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection from COVID infection, but merely boost chances of avoiding severe illness and death. And while children have shown strong resistance to COVID, pediatric infections have been reported, and they can serve as carriers of the coronavirus. They can infect vulnerable members of the household such as seniors and those with comorbidities.

Already, the OCTA Research Group has reported that COVID cases are again rising in Metro Manila. Yesterday, the country recorded the highest number of daily fresh cases in a month at 6,560. The country cannot afford a crisis similar to the one faced by Indonesia. The mayors are in the best position to assess capabilities for preventing another surge, and the IATF must heed their concerns.