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Yesterday, I met with Transportation Secretary Art Tugade to recommend the possible deployment of buses for fully-vaccinated individuals. As I have suggested, this is to make sure that fully-vaccinated passengers are still protected within a transportation bubble, so there are no gaps as they travel from their homes to workplaces, and vice-versa. Currently, when fully-vaccinated individuals leave their homes, they commute alongside unvaccinated passengers, hence letting their guard down. With the regular buses, both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated are at risk to each other. We do not want a scenario wherein we just simply let the vaccinated individuals interact with those who are unvaccinated given the current threat from the Delta variant.
Consequently, I am pleased to hear that Secretary Art and his entire department will fully support us in making this initiative possible, as he asked if we can possibly donate about 40,000 doses of vaccines for our drivers. With this, we will do our best to help them secure those doses.
As I have presented to him, buses for fully-vaccinated individuals will be an extension of their protective bubble, which are their homes and workplaces. These are the safe spaces I have previously discussed in my concept of micro-herd immunity. Considering that their homes and workplaces are actually tagged as safe since those spaces comprise individuals who are also fully vaccinated, then the buses with fully-vaccinated drivers, conductors, and passengers can provide everyone inside with an optimal extension of protection as they travel back and forth.
The proposal complements what I discussed in an interview with Mike Enriquez last Tuesday, which is to only allow fully-vaccinated individuals to enter various establishments in NCR after the lapse of the current lockdown. Since they are protected with the vaccines, we should allow them to go outside with greater mobility as they can help revive our country’s economy. We cannot do the same with unvaccinated individuals as they will risk themselves and our healthcare system if we allow them to be mobile as usual. At best, they should only be allowed to move from their homes to workplaces and vice-versa. This is not at all discriminatory as we are protecting them and the country’s healthcare system from being overwhelmed as the unvaccinated are the ones filling up the hospitals’ capacity. In the Philippine General Hospital, 187 individuals out of the total of 265 of COVID-19 patients admitted as of Aug. 15 were unvaccinated. San Lazaro Hospital, meanwhile, reported that 82 percent of the total severe and critical cases of COVID-19 were also unvaccinated individuals.
Given the threat from the Delta variant, we have to be extra careful as to who we should allow total mobility in NCR, given the number of cases exponentially replicating in numbers. Those who are not yet vaccinated must be limited to travel to and from their workplaces. If we truly want to safely reopen the economy, we must be careful in doing so by limiting absolute mobility to fully-vaccinated individuals. If the current lockdown will be extended, we must temporarily implement it for those who are not yet vaccinated, while the Delta variant is still here. The best thing we can do is to prevent unvaccinated individuals from infecting the vaccinated, and vice-versa.
This is also precisely the reason why we are asking the government to adopt this measure, following the models currently implemented in Singapore and France. We have to consider this not only because the unvaccinated individuals are putting themselves at risk, but also others with whom they interact with.
With our local government units intensifying vaccination rollouts, targeting anywhere between 70 to 80 percent of our population in NCR, that will eventually allow us to put an end to all lockdowns if we can decrease infections coming from the unvaccinated population.
Meanwhile, the extension of the current lockdown depends on our health advisers and how they see the situation. The OCTA research group was quite spot-on. A few days ago, we hit over 14,000 new COVID-19 cases and they had predicted this weeks before. Even if some groups said that the point of concern is in other areas, the focus of the private sector is in the NCR where the lockdown is. I am sure that the IATF-EID will do the right thing. What is important is whatever step we will take, we have to look at a scenario where we can finally move out of a lockdown, be it on Aug. 20 or if they extend it until the latter part of August. This is because the question that must be answered is if the current two-week ECQ will actually suffice to tame the spread of the Delta variant as seen in the current data. With the hospital’s capacity at the point of exhaustion, we really need to recalibrate our current measures.
Again, we will not surpass this lockdown if unvaccinated individuals are given absolute liberty that they had during the pre-pandemic situation. They are the cause of increased transmissions and the best that we can do is to limit their mobility in the pandemic epicenter, which is Metro Manila. If we do not implement this, then there will be no way for us to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and lockdowns will just become a norm in our country. On the other hand, since the vaccinated individuals already have sufficient protection because of vaccines, we can allow their increased mobility since our economy will eventually depend on them. They will serve as a way to kickstart our economy with their increased consumption, which is crucial in NCR since our GDP is concentrated here. Furthermore, this is the best option to take since consumer activities in various establishments will come from the vaccinated, as opposed to limiting the mobility of both the vaccinated and unvaccinated altogether. Hence, if we implement the said proposal, it is tantamount to striking a balance between opening the economy and allowing the vaccinated individuals contribute to our country’s much-needed recovery.