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Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, who, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic led private sector efforts to secure vaccines for the Philippines and advocated for the gradual reopening of the economy, believes that alert levels are no longer necessary now that Filipinos have learned to live with Covid.
“The question we should be asking is why are we still implementing this alert level system when we are no longer under a State of Public Health Emergency?” he said. “We don’t have alert level systems for when there are a lot of dengue cases. We warn the public and increase awareness so that they will be more careful,” he said.
“At this point we cannot afford any lockdowns or loss of confidence among our consumers. We need more mobility and spending if we want to see our GDP move higher. We have to remember that it is the economy that is at a higher risk now,” he said.
Concepcion added that there is little evidence that the variant that is currently circulating is a cause for concern. “This is still the Covid variant that is mild, even the doctors are saying that,” he said. Concepcion added that most experts observe that the health care system is not under threat. It will be recalled that over-capacity at hospitals was a condition that used to necessitate mobility restrictions in order to stop the spread of the virus.
“Filipinos already know what to do. They are aware of the risks but are willing to take them because they are capable of managing them. Filipinos, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, know when situations are risky and they mask up,” he said.
He believes this is still the case even as the Inter-Agency Task for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases put 56 of 82 provinces in the Philippines under Alert Level 1 until April 30.
Alert Level 1 is the lowest of the alert level system adopted during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the guidelines for Alert Level 1 issued in February 2022, public transportation and business establishments are allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity, and the wearing of masks is required. There is no more contact tracing, although proof of vaccination is required.
Some provinces, however, remained under Alert Level 2 since last year, because of their low vaccination rates and despite their low Covid cases and hospital utilization rates.
“I think we have achieved a level of immunity that is both vaccine-induced and from getting exposed to Covid. I still see people masking up when in enclosed spaces and refraining from going to work when they test positive,” he said.
Nevertheless, Concepcion reiterated his call for bivalent vaccines to be made widely available to the public. “Part of empowering our citizens is letting them have access to the vaccines they need. And this begins with having the manufacturers get the Certificates of Product Registration for the bivalent vaccines,” he said.