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I have dedicated the past few days to discussing with various people how our proposed ‘bakuna bubble’ is, in fact, beneficial in terms of decreasing the chances for unvaccinated individuals to land in a hospital.
We have to learn to devise innovative ways to coexist with the virus without fully compromising the country’s economic survival. In an interview by Cito Beltran, I was asked why we are proposing the bakuna bubble for Metro Manila. I replied that due to increasing numbers of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients in NCR, what we are experiencing is actually a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Those individuals who have yet to get their vaccines are the ones who are actually suffering in terms of health. It is not fully-vaccinated individuals that are landing in hospitals. This is what we actually want to prevent. What the bakuna bubble proposes to do is to prevent unvaccinated people from catching COVID-19 infections, and subsequently infecting other people. These individuals contribute to the sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. The bakuna bubble is comprised of a family bubble, transportation bubble, and the business bubble. If we can get all heads of families, as well as businesses, to really mandate all those already qualified to take their vaccines, then we can achieve a better form of protection in a particular bubble. Yes, there can be breakthrough infections, but the most important thing to stave off is for the unvaccinated to have severe infections that may lead to intubation in hospitals.
In the business bubble, it is the CEOs and the entrepreneurs who will ensure that their employees and their families will get vaccinated. These are two important micro-bubbles needed for the Philippines to achieve a greater number of Filipinos who are fully vaccinated. Due to breakthrough infections, it is harder to protect the unvaccinated from the virus. The Delta variant also aggravates the said problem. Instead, fully-vaccinated Filipinos must be pegged at higher than 90 percent. This is the goal of the bakuna bubble, that is, to get leaders from the family and the business sector to be point persons not only in ensuring that all family members and employees will get fully vaccinated, but also to ensure that these people will follow health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. For instance, the moment you leave your bubble, the best question to ask is how you can prevent people within your bubble from getting infected after you come back. Vaccination and others measures to fight the virus are complementary.
Corollary to that, I shared with Cito that we are very strict in terms of implementing health and safety protocols in the business bubble. No one will be allowed to simply enter our establishments unless we are certain that they are not COVID-positive. In a nutshell, that is our proposal. What we have suggested to the government is for us to only allow fully-vaccinated people in certain high-risk establishments where it is indispensable to remove our masks, for example, in restaurants, salons, and gyms.
This is nothing new actually. Other countries are already implementing this, such as France, Singapore, and Indonesia. There are so many countries that are already moving towards this direction and it would be a good step to follow them. Cito then asked me if the entire business sector is on-board for this proposal. I told him that entrepreneurs across the country, especially those that are severely hit by ongoing restrictions from the pandemic, are supporting this proposal. I shared to him that a few LGUs are actually supportive of creating a bakuna bubble in Metro Manila. In relation to this, we led a press conference last Friday with Cebu City Acting Mayor Michael Rama to discuss the current implementation of a bakuna bubble in their locality. Cebu City is already moving towards this direction. With the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 138, the said locality streamlines the significance of vaccinating essential workers, as well as granting fully-vaccinated individuals the needed access to establishments, such as dine-in services in restaurants, salons, as well as other health and wellness services. Cebu City’s EO 138 speaks volumes of Michael’s initiative to protect not only the lives of his constituents, but more importantly, their livelihood as well.
The approach to save lives and livelihoods is quite challenging. We have surpassed widescale lockdowns, and are being called to a new direction because the Delta variant has somehow changed the game. The massive vaccination rollouts have to continue because it is very clear that we have to protect the unvaccinated. We have to protect our hospitals from getting overwhelmed. When hospitals are full, then the health workers are stressed, and it will be a domino effect for the entire healthcare system. I cannot imagine a scenario wherein there is another strict lockdown being imposed and everyone is kept in their homes. That will be unfortunate. Another thing to look at is the banking community. Do you think banks will still lend money if they see people not gaining sufficient profit to return what they have borrowed? The banks will go bankrupt. Entrepreneurs will not survive if this happens. Perhaps they are already at the point of getting their collaterals maximized. Some of them might have even been foreclosed right now. We have to help these people.
We have to implement the said measure because we cannot simply protect everyone’s health without considering the country’s economy. How can we promote sustainability as we try to survive the pandemic? There will be a continuous need to procure vaccines and other materials to surpass the pandemic. When the businesses’ income decrease and businesses are shut down, how can we raise taxes from them? Revenues will be crucial for the country’s survival. Secretary Dominguez has done a good job and our balance sheet is great. However, this will surely be a long fight. We have to learn to live with the virus. If we cannot do so, everything is finished. On the other hand, various groups that are against the proposal are reacting that the plan is unfair to the unvaccinated. They argue that it is discriminatory to curtail their mobility. Well, if we just allow the unvaccinated to go out, get infected, sick or worse, die – that is what is going to be unfair to them. It is also more unfair for healthy people if we will simply allow the unvaccinated to pass to vaccinated individuals their infections. With that said, our proposal is not unfair since protecting someone else’s life will never be unfair.
Also, to say that it is improper to restrict their mobility is false. Right now, with all these lockdowns being implemented, we are already being restricted in some other form. Is that a violation of our rights? The answer is no, because the mandate of the government is to protect everyone, as the welfare of the people is supreme. The government has the discretion to implement certain measures if it is geared to shield us from danger. If the critics will say that the proposed measure is unfair to them, so be it. But to protect everyone’s lives and prevent them from dying, I know deep inside, is more fair.