Philippines orders children back indoors amid fears of virus surge

MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines sent millions of children back into lockdown yesterday as hospitals prepared for a surge in coronavirus cases fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant ravaging neighbouring countries.

Nearly half of the 47 cases of the more virulent strain detected so far were locally acquired, the health department said, raising fears of a sharp uptick in infections that have topped 1.5 million since the start of the pandemic.

“The Delta variant is more infectious and deadly,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque as he announced tougher rules for the national capital region and four provinces where cases have spiked.

Along with tighter capacity limits on indoor dining, beauty salons and religious gatherings, children aged five to 17 have been told to stay home.

It comes two weeks after the government lifted a ban on minors going outside that had been in place since March 2020 but often flouted.

The government has previously justified the draconian measure by citing the risk of youngsters catching the virus and infecting their elderly relatives.

Independent research group OCTA, which advises the government on its pandemic response, called on Thursday for “localised lockdowns” as well as extended curfews and a stay-at-home order for children.

Medical workers brief about the vaccination cards at the Filoil Flying-V Arena in San Juan City, Philippines. PHOTO: AP