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With cases expected to drop to as low as 1,000 per day by mid- to late February, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said that it might be time for the country to focus on the economy.
“We need to de-escalate from crisis mode to recovery mode,” said the Go Negosyo founder. “This is important if Filipinos are to help rebuild our country by engaging in economic activity like going to shops, dining out, traveling or going back to work,” he said.
“OCTA Research sees smooth sailing ahead for the next six months, so we should sail while the sun is shining. Let’s get enough momentum to push for growth in the first half of the year,” he added.
Independent research group OCTA Research believes that lowering the country to an Alert Level 1 status can help it sustain the growth it realized in the fourth quarter of 2021. “Now is the time [to open up further], because the science is proving that cases are going down,” said OCTA Research head Prof. Ranjit Rye. OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David is projecting new infections to drop to 1,000 to 2,000 per day by the end of February.
It will be recalled that it was upon the advice of OCTA that the private sector proposed the two-week lockdown in August 2021. The lockdown succeeded in heading off a surge and saved the crucial fourth quarter economic activity. From 26,238 in cases in September, infections dropped to triple-digit numbers in December, enabling the country to record a better-than-expected 7.7 GDP growth in the fourth quarter.
Concepcion added that the private sector is ready to contribute to the task of rebuilding. ”I believe this partnership between the government and the private sector has served us well during the pandemic,” he said.
In addition, Concepcion rationalized that it might also be time to put in place several measures for moving forward:
It might sow less confusion and restore confidence in consumers to simply call Alert Level 1 the “new normal”. Areas with high vaccination rates of 70 to 90 percent should qualify under this classification.
Instead of restrictions, impose agreed-upon minimum public health and safety protocols, with masks remaining mandatory. This will give the country an opportunity to see how well it does with only these protocols in place.
Strictly implement public health and safety protocols during political rallies.
Vaccination cards should continue to be required at indoor business establishments. This can reduce the risk of exposing the unvaccinated, and encourage them to get vaccinated.
Booster cards should eventually replace primary vaccination cards as the requirement for entry once the vaccination cards lapse. Expiry dates should be based on the government’s guidelines on boosters.
Administer booster shots parallel with ongoing vaccinations, and on a staggered, first-jabbed, first-boostered basis to protect those with waning immunity.
Start face-to-face classes by June, but only to fully vaccinated schoolchildren from households that have no unvaccinated members, especially seniors. Schools have a multiplier effect on economic activity, especially among the MSMEs.
A return of employees to workplaces will also help boost economic activity in transport, food and retail.
Concepcion believes that changing the country’s framework from being in a constant state of fear to a state of readiness is important for the country’s transition. “It’s the Philippines’ long play to living with Covid,” he said.
“I think Filipinos want to move on. Nobody wants to stay in a pandemic mindset and live in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety. We must make a clear transition from being afraid to being hopeful,” he said.
Concepcion believes that the first two quarters of 2022 will be crucial in the country’s economic recovery. And with currently no variants of concern on the horizon and healthcare capacity at low risk, conditions may be favorable for a true return to normal. “It is not too far-fetched to believe that the public health emergency status can be lifted, and with it the alert level systems,” he said.
“This would be a great way for the administration to finish its term. Ending on a high note, with a protected population and a healthy economy is a legacy any sitting President would be happy to have,” he said.