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Amidst concerns about a possible return to an Alert Level 2 status for the National Capital Region (NCR), Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said that higher alert levels may not be necessary if hospitalization rates remain low.
“If our Covid cases are not ending up in hospitals, then there is no need for higher alert levels,” he said.
His statement follows reports of a gradual uptick in Covid infection rates when, as of June 13, the Philippines recorded 386 new cases, with almost half, or 188, in NCR. However, ICU rates are at a low 20 percent, and healthcare utilization rate is at 16.6 percent for the entire Philippines.
“Don’t look at the percentages, look at the numbers,” said infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Salvaña in his Facebook post on June 13 after media reports about the slow rise in cases, specifically in the NCR. “A 100 percent increase from a baseline of 100 cases is only 200 cases. Remember we’ve seen over 35,000 cases in a day in the past,” wrote Dr. Salvana, who is also a member of the government’s Technical Advisory Group.
“[It’s] very unlikely we will have to escalate to Alert Level 2 as long as hospital capacity remains good,” said Dr. Salvaña. The opinion was echoed by Usec. Rosario Vergeire during the Laging Handa Public Briefing last June 13, saying, “Let us not look at the number of cases, we need to look at the hospital capacity because this is more important to our healthcare system.”
“The basis should always be the healthcare utilization rates,” said Concepcion. “The medical experts themselves are saying that it is still possible to be infected with Covid even after you’ve been vaccinated and even with acquired immunity. What the vaccine prevents is severe illness and death, and that should be the metric by which we decide whether or not to raise alert levels,” he said.
Concepcion has been appealing for less mobility restrictions as he emphasized that the focus should now be on preserving the health of the economy. “The situation has changed. Stagflation can become a reality at this point,” he said. The Russia-Ukraine crisis has sent fuel prices skyrocketing, causing a cascade of increases in the prices of commodities and consequently, basic goods. This latest crisis is threatening to cripple businesses, particularly MSMEs, which are now only starting to recover from the pandemic. “The conflict in Europe will cause everyone so much pain – the manufacturers, retailers, consumers. It will become worse if it drags on. We could have food shortages,” he said.
“This is why we can’t increase our alert levels. Our domestic production, specially in the agri sector, should be strengthened to help the consumers,” he added.
“We need to change our mindset,” said Concepcion. “We can’t go into panic or be paralyzed again when we see infection rates going up. This is not the way we are going to learn to live with Covid.”