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In an interview by Mike Navallo yesterday, I shared the overall concept of ‘bakuna bubble,’ as an extension of my idea of creating micro-herd immunity in homes, transportation, and workplaces. In our homes, we can apply it by vaccinating those in our vicinity, such as family members and ‘kasambahays.’ That is the ‘bakuna bubble’ for our homes. Meanwhile, we can recreate it for our workplaces, such as offices, factories, and manufacturing plants. With that, we vaccinate our employees and make their workplaces a safer environment for them. This is actually what the private sector is doing, that is why we procured vaccines to inoculate our workforce. Gladly, the acceptance rate for the private employees to get vaccinated is close to a hundred percent. On the transportation side, we are closely working with Secretary Art Tugade to provide buses for both the fully-vaccinated individuals, as well as the unvaccinated. With this, what you do is you create a bubble of fully-vaccinated people in homes, workplaces, and transportation, so you then shield the people from the virus as they move from homes to workplaces.
Now, the proposal that I put forward to the IATF-EID, with the consensus of business organizations across the country, is to allow business establishments in Metro Manila to open only for fully-vaccinated people. That is actually the way many countries in Europe and Asia have opted to do, as they move towards the better direction for the fight against the pandemic. In our country, we have to do the same to create a ‘bubble’ and protect the unvaccinated by limiting them to their homes and workplaces only since they have no armor against the virus at all as compared to the fully-vaccinated. For example, if the fully-vaccinated gets infected, they will not go straight to the hospital since their chances for getting a severe infection is very small. Right now, we can see our hospitals being crowded with the unvaccinated patients, which actually comprise 85 percent of those being admitted due to COVID-19.
This proposal is actually the answer to the question of how we can open our economy safely. That is the only path that I can see to be able to do that. We must only allow fully-vaccinated people, who have sufficient protection, to drive economic activity in Metro Manila. If we do not stop the lockdowns and keep both the fully-vaccinated individuals and the unvaccinated to stall, then the national government’s budget will eventually deplete and we will all suffer altogether. The government cannot keep on giving ‘ayuda’ or cash aid since it will cost so much money. From time to time, we buy vaccines, test kits, and all of these materials in response to COVID-19, which amount to trillions of pesos. So, we have to open the economy since it is the real way to sustain the livelihood of the people. In the same manner, we have to save lives of the unvaccinated because they are not protected.
Navallo asked for my opinion if our proposal would be affected by the recent studies stating that the Delta variant could still infect fully-vaccinated people. I told him that fully-vaccinated individuals could still be infected by the Delta variant, but we are doing our best to decrease the chances of unvaccinated individuals landing in hospitals due to severe infections. In comparison, we have seen in recent cases that fully-vaccinated people who contract COVID-19 only have mild infections. This is because when you get fully vaccinated, the chances of contracting severe infections or even dying is very minimal. Just looking at the data presented in the town hall MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos and I led: most COVID-19 patients in Metro Manila hospitals are still unvaccinated. Majority of cases from the intensive care unit (ICU) are from the unvaccinated category.
Furthermore, Mike asked me if I agree with the position of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that it is not yet time for our proposal to push through because of availability of vaccine supply. He also asked if this can cause discrimination as asserted by the CHR. I told him that Malacañang said that our proposal would only be considered once NCR reaches 50 percent of its total population are fully vaccinated, which will be reached by the end of this month. Again, I reiterate that our proposal is only for Metro Manila because the national government’s vaccines are currently being poured in NCR. Similarly, the private sector’s vaccines are predominantly being focused in NCR, so I would say that the supply of vaccines in NCR is not really lacking. Next, this proposal is not meant to be implemented in areas that do not have sufficient supply. The idea is to only test this in NCR. I also talked to former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and he said that there is nothing illegal about it, because under the state of emergency, the main idea is to protect the general public. This Delta variant has changed the game entirely and we cannot rely on the same measures as before. It is highly infectious. Many fully-vaccinated individuals might still get infections, but many of my friends who contracted COVID-19 got well in a span of four to five days because of protection from being inoculated.
If you can see in NCR, where most of the vaccines are deployed, cases are going down and that is a very important angle to look at. We have to see if this proposal will work in NCR since vaccine supply is steady. We have no other better solution and we have to find a way out of lockdowns. The country cannot continue with the reimposition of lockdowns forever. Our economy will collapse if we do. However, the national government will revert to lockdowns if the hospital capacity gets full again. How are you going to prevent it? That is by reducing the mobility of unvaccinated people only to their homes and workplaces, and subsequently increasing the mobility of the fully-vaccinated individuals to spur economic activity in Metro Manila. The Duterte administration has done a great job, and we want President Duterte to succeed against the pandemic. Lockdown is an option; it works in certain situations, but we cannot do it continuously since it will be a disaster.
As we enter the fourth quarter this year, the most important period for consumption to spike and for MSMEs to recover their losses, we have to rethink. If we implement a lockdown again during that period, that’s it. End of the story. We are going to have a hard time in 2022, and that is what we cannot afford. That is why this is the proposal that we are putting on the table and this is the best suggestion so far.
Mike also sought an update on where the private sector currently is with regard to vaccine procurement. I informed him that we do not have problems with the tripartite agreement. On a side note, the private sector has no problem in convincing our employees to take the vaccine. He also asked if there is a divide between those already fully vaccinated and those who are not. I said that the issue of discrimination does not hold water since it is non-existent and there is no actual divide between the fully-vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. We are just trying to protect the latter. The unvaccinated can travel from their homes to workplaces if our proposal is implemented and if they can show negative COVID-19 test results. There may be people who will not take vaccines for various reasons, such as religion, but I do not think that they can just hold the country hostage and suddenly say that it is discriminatory since all of us will suffer if our economy stays at a standstill from lockdowns. Unvaccinated people have to realize that the Philippines is not a rich country like others. We have limited funds to use. MSMEs will stall, banks will lose confidence to lend, and we will not recover. We do not want that kind of situation. I cannot think of any other solution.
Lockdowns will just aggravate problems for many people and we cannot afford to just simply let it pass.