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These past weeks have been dedicated to consulting with various advisers from both the private and the public sector. As we try to form our roadmap that will give a picture of how our economy can move forward as we achieve population protection, then herd immunity, one idea that we have come up with is the concept of “safe spaces.”
Safe spaces was formed as an approach that can start the calibration of business establishments’ operations as soon as they reach a certain percentage of their employees vaccinated. As 80 percent is the ideal percentage of vaccinated individuals for herd immunity to be obtained against COVID-19, we will set up safe spaces at operational establishments with at least 80 percent of their employees already vaccinated.
More on the idea of safe spaces, we have seen safe spaces as an approach that would provide an additional layer of safety for everyone and even create what we call as “micro-herd immunity.”
Creating safe spaces will allow us to stop transmission, the spread of new variants, and even indirectly provide immunity to the unvaccinated in our areas of concern. One of the main inspirations for this idea is Father Nicanor Austriaco’s suggestion on attaining herd immunity. As Father Nic suggests, for herd immunity to happen, it should be built at every level of the society: from the household, to the barangay, to the localities, and even to office or business – which safe spaces is essentially. Adopting this approach, Father Nic said, “What will happen now is we have bubbles of herd immunity and slowly the different herds will come together, and the hope is that the entire country will become one giant herd immune against COVID-19.”
Discussing safe spaces recently with mall and building owners, our partners and friends from these sectors shared their situation, along with their numerous suggestions on how to go about our economic recovery and how we can apply safe spaces. Their inputs finalized the idea behind safe spaces, among other things – that safe spaces is an approach to achieve herd immunity in the workplace. Bobby Dy also forwarded his projection for the need for transportation and, as we have agreed, indeed, the demand for mobility will dramatically increase once many establishments have become safe spaces. As Bobby suggested, the current limitation on our country’s public transportation may be eased following the influx of people that safe spaces may bring once already in effect.
We also discussed how malls are serving right now as vaccination sites. Many of our malls are partnering with various LGUs to boost the vaccination drive. They are also actively encouraging and educating their employees on the importance of being vaccinated. Hans Sy updated us that 90 percent of SM employees are already vaccinated, which is great news as SM Malls are usually a go-to for most of our Filipino people.
Following the discussion with mall and building owners, all of them agreed that what should be prioritized at the moment is optimizing workplace capacity to bring back employment. Even the mall owners agreed on this proposition and said that entertainment areas like movie theaters can wait and start opening only when we achieve herd immunity. All of them pushed for the idea that we must prioritize office and other workplaces – as aside from generating more employment and economic movement, it will be the start of immunizing the workplace itself – towards herd immunity.
Questions on what milestones should be achieved for certain age groups of minors to be allowed to go outside and enter malls was also put on the table. Inconclusive at the moment, what is certain right now is that Sec. Carlito Galvez is reserving Pfizer doses should the country start inoculating the minors. It is because of such concerns that we are developing our roadmap to include specific milestones that were suggested.
Timely also, together with leaders from both the public and the private sector, we will discuss more about the roadmap we are setting up, which safe spaces is under, in a town hall webinar this Friday, July 9, at 9AM. The webinar will be conducted via Zoom and is open to everyone that is interested to know more about the current status of our vaccination rollouts, data projections, as well as recommendations for efficient inoculation in our country.