Let’s get in touch.
We’d love to hear from you.
With Covid cases under control and most areas in the country including the National Capital Region remaining under Alert Level 1, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion believes it might be time to consider easing the country out of a public health emergency status. “This would be the right time for us to focus on the health of our economy,” he said.
He said this would reframe the country’s approach to the pandemic, especially with the economy now entering a crucial stage in its recovery. “The faster way to economic recovery is to approach it now with our victories in mind,” he said.
Concepcion pointed out that the Philippines has managed to maintain low infection and hospitalization rates even as cases have surged in Asia. “Filipinos seem to have learned to live with the virus,” he observed, pointing out that they continue to wear facemasks and, as revealed in a survey by OCTA Research, would continue to do so even after Covid has been brought under control. Concepcion believes wearing of facemasks remains important, especially in public spaces and public transportation.
Infection and hospitalization rates have remained manageable despite vaccination rates having plateaued. “The LGUs have done their best to get people vaccinated,” he said. “It was not for lack of trying, but because of many other factors, not the least of which is vaccine hesitancy,” he said. The unvaccinated, he said, remain at risk even as infections remain low.
Given how freely people are now moving around, Concepcion believes that the government should now apply restrictions based on high-risk areas and activities. Facemasks and a fully vaccinated status, for example, can be required only in areas with rising infection rates and for activities that are considered high-risk for infections. “We would bounce back much faster if we apply a granular approach, not just on locations but to activities,” he said.
Concepcion advised the next administration to address the excess supply of vaccines by giving these as second boosters to economic frontliners. Second boosters are today only recommended for healthcare workers, senior citizens and those who are immunocompromised. The next administration can now also be guided by data on vaccination rates to recalibrate future vaccination programs.
Several policy changes also point to a less heightened public health emergency in the country. Incoming tourists no longer need a Covid test as long as they have at least one booster vaccination. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, announced that it is working to declare an end to Covid-19 as a public health emergency of international health concern, though it clarified that it is not the end of the pandemic. The country now remains generally at low-risk levels, and only a weak surge is expected over the next few weeks,
“An obstacle right now is the mindset that we are still under an emergency, but it seems we have already learned to live with Covid. But this will not be the final pandemic, so we should start refining our public health warning system,” Concepcion said.
To protect the economy, he suggested continuing an alert level system that is based on healthcare and ICU bed utilization rates rather than on infection rates. “There will be surges and we will just have to apply what we already know about treating and containing the cases, but we should not be alarmed when infection numbers rise as long as our hospitals are within safe limits,” he said.
Restrictions, he said, make it more difficult for businesses to generate the revenue and the taxes needed to pay back the country’s debts which is 12.69 trillion as of March. If the country is unable to pay back its debts, it will be less likely to be allowed to borrow again. The ongoing Russia conflict and other global problems are now causing prices of goods to go up. The national government is now proposing several measures to address these, but the economy cannot slow down any more. “This would be disastrous not just to our growth but in case another pandemic happens, and we need money to buy testing equipment and vaccines,” he said.