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“The economy is more important right now,” Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said in an interview on the current affairs program “The Chiefs” on One News, which was aired last May 3. The interview was shortly before the country’s pandemic response body, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), announced on May 2 that it will not mandate the wearing of face masks amid an uptick in Covid-19 positivity rates.
Concepcion has been vocal against reimposing mask mandates in the country after it was floated as a possibility following the rise in Covid positivity rates.
“People may not die from Covid but they can die from hunger,” he said in the interview, in response to a Department of Health (DOH) official’s favoring of mask mandates. “The economy is what we have to focus on. We have to get tourism back on its feet, and we want to see mobility. How do you expect our GDP to grow unless consumer spending happens?” he said. Concepcion said that the economy and job creation are now the priority.
“If we go creating unnecessary fear, then the tourists and investors will have second thoughts,” he added, saying that the Philippines must send the right signals to the world by showing that the country has learned to live with Covid. “All over the world, people are no longer talking about Covid,” he said.
He explained that the rise in positivity rates has not overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system, unlike during the height of the pandemic. This observation was also shared by the DOH. OCTA Research had earlier noted that positivity rate in NCR rose to 18.8 percent last May 1 but noted zero deaths from Covid in the NCR in the past few weeks. Healthcare Utilization Rate in the NCR as of end-April is at 22 percent, which is still very low.
Concepcion shared during the interview that even his parents, who are into their nineties, caught Covid but have managed well.
He also said that it might be time to trust that people can take care of their own health. “By now, people already know how to manage their own situations,” he said.
“I think our doctors now have enough experience with Covid, and we have the antivirals, we know when to mask, we have vaccines. Let’s not over-anticipate,” he said. “What we have to do is continue to bring confidence that the Philippines is a safe place,” he said.
Concepcion had earlier said that the Alert Level system should no longer be used and should instead be replaced with a public health warning system. “We are no longer in a state of public health emergency. What we should have are public health advisories telling people to take precautions, like we always do when dengue cases are on the rise.”
“The momentum is already there. We have a President that is actively pushing for investments, and we are all bullish about the economy,” he said.
Concepcion also said earlier that he hopes even vaccination cards will no longer be required during travel. “It hardly makes sense because unless they took second boosters lately, the vaccines that most people took have already waned,” he said.
“We are trying to get more tourists to come to the Philippines, so let’s make it easier for them. Let’s not scare them,” he said. Concepcion’s Go Negosyo will hold the Tourism Summit 2023 in Cebu this weekend, May 6. In attendance will be key tourism officials, leading businessmen in tourism, as well as travel influencers and vloggers.
Concepcion believes, however, that some health and safety protocols need to remain. “We should still encourage vaccination and mask wearing when indoors and in spaces that are fully enclosed, but we should not mandate it,” he said.
”Yes, we have to be prepared, but let’s not overreact.”