Rewarding the Vaccinated
Everybody agrees that vaccination is the solution to the pandemic and the key to reopening further the economy. With more vaccinated people, the nation should reopen safely and start generating jobs with reduced risks.
The vaccination rate in the Philippines is far from ideal, but more and more people are getting jabs with the arrival of contracted vaccine supplies, especially in Metro Manila. The health authorities and the country’s policymakers, in my opinion, should now look at the expanding number of vaccinated Filipinos and use this data as major criteria for further reopening the economy.
Major private sector companies, like my Villar Group, have procured vaccines for all their employees as their contribution to the pandemic solution. They invested in this healthcare solution and shared their resources to the government in the hope of speeding up the economic recovery. Now that both the private sector and the government have vaccinated more workers and consumers, it is high time that we reward them by reopening more sectors of the economy.
Their accommodation in more dine-in outlets, gyms and recreation centers, and even in hotels, among others (on proof of vaccination), is a compliment to their efforts in helping the state overcome the pandemic. In the same manner, a shorter quarantine period for vaccinated returning overseas Filipino workers should be accorded. The reward or incentive to the vaccinated is also one way of convincing the unvaccinated population to get their dose and change their perception of the Covid vaccine.
We can expect the number of vaccinated Filipinos to increase in the coming months. And I see no reason why they should remain cooped up in their homes or be prevented from engaging in economic activities once they get the dose.
The Philippines has already administered a total of over 45 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of Thursday last week, or roughly 40 percent of the total Philippine population. According to the National Covid-19 vaccination dashboard, over 21.1 million have already acquired full protection against the virus, while over 24 million are waiting for their second dose.
I am confident that the government will accelerate and expand the coverage of the vaccination rollout in the next few months. It is allotting 29 million doses for the vaccination of minors aged 12 to 17 years old, starting with the pilot inoculation of adolescents in five hospitals in Metro Manila.
In the meantime, I personally believe that health authorities should have eased the restrictions further in Metro Manila, instead of extending the pilot implementation of the Alert Level System in the national capital region by two weeks to October 15.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19, perhaps as a compromise to the clamor of businessmen, agreed to expand the allowable indoor capacities of dine-in services, in-person religious services, and personal care services in areas under Alert Level 4 for fully vaccinated individuals by an additional 10 percent. The task force also approved the reopening of fitness studios and gyms at a limited 20-percent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals, as long as all gym workers are fully vaccinated.
But I personally do not see any logic in putting a cap on dine-in capacity or the number of people allowed in studios and gyms for fully vaccinated people. Vaccinated customers, including the restaurant crew and gym trainers, pose very minimal risks to each other.
And with the increasing number of vaccinated people, Metro Manila should have been placed at least under Alert Level 3 with less quarantine restrictions starting this fourth quarter. Minimum health standards, of course, should be maintained to contain the virus infection.
Reopening further the economy with fewer restrictions is our obligation to the millions of workers who lost their jobs in August. The unemployment rate in August increased to a four-month high of 8.1 percent from 6.9 percent in July after the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila restricted mobility, shut down many commercial establishments and laid off a great number of Filipino workers.
Current Covid-related data, however, strongly supports economic reopening. The number of Covid-19 and active cases in the Philippines is declining. Daily infections have stabilized between 13,000 and 15,000 last week, while active cases are down to 130,268 as of last Friday. The decreasing trend and the rising number of vaccinated Filipinos should serve as cue to recalibrate our Covid response once again.