Gov’t seen likely to ease lockdown restrictions after April 30 | Inquirer Business
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Gov’t seen likely to ease lockdown restrictions after April 30

Budget constraints a major consideration in decision-makers’ next move, says think tank
/ 04:15 AM April 26, 2021

Despite a still alarming domestic coronavirus (COVID-19) contagion and the slow rollout of a much-needed vaccination program, the government is unlikely to prolong lockdown restrictions in Metro Manila and surrounding regions beyond April mainly due to budgetary constraints, New York-based think tank Global Source said.

According to an April 20 research note titled “Lockdown Watch” written by Global Source economist Romeo Bernardo, the think tank sees a government bias for the reopening of the economy following the recent return to strict enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and the transition to the looser modified ECQ (MECQ) as COVID-19.

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“If the number of new cases continues to fall in the coming days, we expect decision-makers to opt for a transition back to the less restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ). However, the likelihood of resurgence is not small and there appears to be a need to drill down on how rules are actually being implemented,” Global Source said.

It pointed out that one possible channel of transmission for the new variants was the lax quarantine policy on returning overseas workers who were supposed to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.

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“The practice appears to have been to allow those who test negative on the sixth day for the coronavirus to complete the remaining quarantine period at home, notwithstanding the risk of delayed onset of symptoms. The policy may reflect the shortage of funds of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration for quarantining the large number of returning workers,” it said.

All told, Global Source noted that Philippine COVID-19 statistics were improving but “still far from reassuring.” The number of daily cases is still relatively high – averaging close to 10,000, against the backdrop of an overburdened healthcare system and the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19 virus with high transmissibility.

As such, there are concerns that lifting restrictions will again lead to explosive growth in infections.

“Meanwhile, the government is just starting to ramp up vaccination of priority groups concentrating efforts in high transmission areas, with a quite low record 67,000 injections in one day,” the research note said, adding that only about 60 percent of healthcare workers had been inoculated so far, of which, only 20 percent had received their second dose .

Global Source further pointed out that most of the jabs were first doses of the Sinovac vaccine which, based on reports from Latin America, would not provide the minimum 50 percent efficacy until two weeks after the second dose . Likewise seen contributing to the slow rollout was the delayed procurement of vaccines, with no certainty on contracts for future vaccine deliveries except for China’s Sinovac.

“But can the country afford to stay longer under MECQ? As it is, the trade department estimated that the economy lost the equivalent of 1 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) due to the two-week ECQ and analysts are starting to downgrade GDP growth outlooks,” it said.

Global Source noted that the government’s P23 billion subsidy budget for poor households, which has yet to be fully disbursed, was much less than estimated income losses. The National Economic and Development Authority estimated daily wage loss at P2.1 billion, or about P70 billion through April 30, the end of the MECQ.

“Hunger can be expected to have increased in the interim with long lines of people gathering at citizen-led community pantries that have sprouted all over the metropolis in recent days,” the think tank said.

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