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Balancing health and the economy is really challenging. There is a need to save lives, as well as to support the livelihoods and jobs of our people so that they can survive.
The lives of people are very important, but we must also strike a cautious balance, ensuring that people can also provide for their families. Challenges will assuredly arise if we do not lay down a sound economic recovery plan. Poverty will worsen, and people will not be able to buy food and medicine.
We, in the private sector, respect the decision of President Duterte to put Metro Manila and nearby provinces under a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As of Aug. 5, the number of cases surpassed 110,000. I understand that there is a need to revisit our strategies to contain the sharp increase in infections. Two weeks is not too long. I think we can use this period to plan ahead.
We fully understand the plight of the healthcare workers and medical groups who are at the frontlines of this disease, and we commit to fully support them through all means.
One of the biggest challenges we now face is helping those who have lost their jobs and businesses. This has been brought to light when the government eased into general community quarantine (GCQ) and gradually reopened the economy. Entrepreneurs started resuming operations and transportation was increased. Many of those who were losing money were looking forward to restarting and recovering their losses.
Nevertheless, the decision of the President has been made. We have to make productive use of the two-week lockdown to ensure that quarantine facilities and testing continue to be scaled up.
We cannot deny the challenges confronting our economy brought by the pandemic. We are entering a period of historically strong consumption levels from August to December when we expect most of the businesses to recover their losses.
Our group will make the best out of the two-week MECQ and launch pooled PCR testing before Aug. 15. That will help map out infections at the community level and increase visibility on where the infections are. Pooled PCR testing will be a game-changer since it will significantly speed up testing and bring down testing to anywhere from P350 to P550 per person, depending on the pool size.
ARK-PCR private sector chief implementor Rep. Janette Garin is leading the private sector initiative for this effort. In addition, we’re bringing 20 automatic extraction equipment that will be used for pooled PCR testing, which is scheduled to arrive by the end of this week.
The private sector will also fund a pooled PCR testing pilot for 16 cities and one municipality this month. That represents about P160,000 pooled PCR tests that will be done for this part of the research.
Yesterday, we held a virtual MOA signing with the city of Makati together with Mayor Abigail Binay as the pilot city for pooled PCR testing. The pilot launch is supported by our big brother and staunch supporter, BDO Unibank led by Tessie Sy-Coson.
As the country’s business capital, Makati is one of the cities in NCR to pilot Go Negosyo’s pooled PCR testing. The city also pledges to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through massive targeted testing. The data and results that will be gathered during the tests will then be used as a guide in policy-making, program formulation in line with the LGU’s COVID-19 response.
I strongly believe that one of the most effective ways of protecting our businesses and the lives of our people is to create visibility through massive targeted testing. Testing gives us the visibility we need to come up with more informed and comprehensive strategies. If we cannot control the health situation, then we have little chance of saving the economy.
With no cure or vaccine available on the market, we are calling for a more surgical and localized approach to lockdowns, focusing on barangays or local clusters with high infection rates, while allowing the rest of the area to operate normally. Part of the plan is to grant more power to local chief executives. We believe this is a sustainable strategy to limit the spread of the virus, while allowing some level of economic activity to resume.
To co-exist with the virus, we have to act and decide based on science and data. This will also allow us to focus and save resources.
To effectively fight the pandemic, the public and private sectors must continue to work hand-in-hand and use our combined resources and expertise to create the visibility we need to win this war. Moving forward, our multi-sectoral teamwork will spell the difference in our push to save lives and livelihoods. With the hard work of our admirable medical frontliners and the combined efforts of all, we will win as one team.