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This week, we expect the IATF to decide on the growing clamor from our overseas kababayans to ease the quarantine restrictions and allow them to spend more time with their families in the Philippines.
One can hardly blame our Filipino immigrants, OFWs, and their families for making this appeal. This will be the second Christmas they might spend without seeing their loved ones. To Filipinos, not reuniting with your family during Christmas is unheard of, and it is especially painful after months of dodging COVID-19, being subjected to the stresses of an ever-present health threat, and all the mental, physical, and emotional agony that comes with it. A little compassion is all that is being asked.
Data from the country’s flag carrier, Philippine Airlines, show that the positivity rate among inbound passengers from the US is very low – less than one in 377 or less than one passenger on a full 777 aircraft. Our friends from OCTA Research observed that most of the new cases in the country are from local transmissions and not from persons coming in from overseas.
Already the US is opening up to fully vaccinated travelers from all over the world, and their cases have stabilized. We must trust that the vaccines have helped in reducing the chances of severe infection and hospitalization. How else can we convince those who still question the efficacy of the vaccines?
That is why our latest initiative, VAX to the MAX, is focused on increasing vaccination rates, not just in the National Capital Region (NCR), but all across the Philippines. It aims to keep our LGUs on their toes by keeping tabs on their vaccination rates. We designed VAX to the MAX as a dashboard of vaccination rates in all 12 regions, the NCR, BARMM, and key cities across the Philippines. Using data from various sources, we celebrate those who have achieved 70 percent or higher vaccination rates, cheer on those who are close to it with vaccination rates of 21 to 69 percent, and nudge those who have vaccinated 20 percent or fewer of their population. We used a Philippine map for the infographic so we can all tell at a glance how we are doing as a nation in terms of vaccinations.
Raising vaccination numbers in the provinces is crucial right now. OCTA Research has found that vaccine hesitancy is quite high in the provinces. In the Visayas, 32 percent of respondents to their survey last September said they would not take the vaccine. This is followed by areas in Luzon outside of NCR (24 percent), and then by Mindanao (19 percent).
A focused, sustained campaign works. This much is evident judging from our success in NCR, where vaccine hesitancy is at its lowest (five percent) and where we already have vaccinated 85+ percent of the target population.
Vaccines continue to arrive and are being deployed to the provinces. We must pursue with equal persistence the vaccination of the countryside. We cannot afford to leave them behind, especially now that we have learned so much about how to manage this pandemic.
VAX to the MAX is at the center of our latest Let’s Go Bakuna townhall this Friday, Nov. 12, and the discussion will focus on creating bakuna bubbles beyond the NCR. Our partner, OCTA Research, will give us an update on the current COVID situation, and specifically, how we can sustain this downward trend in new COVID cases. Top government officials will be on hand to frame the situation in terms of the economy and their plans moving forward. Our friends from the travel industry and key officials in the transport and travel sector will share with us their insight on quarantine reduction and ease of travel. Several provincial governors will join our townhall to discuss the central issue of vaccinating beyond NCR, and what more can be done to accelerate vaccinations in the provinces.
Clearly, leadership was and continues to be instrumental in how well the country is doing in the midst of the pandemic. It will also be a crucial factor in how quickly the Philippine economy will recover. With this in mind, we have decided to devote special episodes of our Go Negosyo show on Facebook to getting to know the candidates for national positions in the 2022 elections.
Go Negoshow Kandidatalks will be a platform to ask candidates their plans and programs for the MSMEs. As always, it will be a light, easygoing discussion hosted by Love Añover and Betong Sumaya, but it will also tackle some serious issues, which I and Go Negosyo’s Josephine Romero will discuss with our candidates. As always, this will be free to watch over Facebook Live, and our MSMEs can go ahead and ask their own questions of the candidates.
November marks the 16th anniversary of Go Negosyo and its advocacy of helping micro, small, and medium enterprises. For us at Go Negosyo, this pandemic continues to be a challenge. We’ve had triumphs and defeats, and the task we chose to give ourselves is a difficult one, but we must soldier on. Life goes on, but we must be ever vigilant of the danger that is still present.