Neda chief Chua sees ‘opening’ for MGCQ in NCR
MANILA, Philippines — The country’s chief economist on Wednesday said the declining number of COVID-19 cases alongside increasing mass vaccination would allow a less restrictive quarantine level in Metro Manila.
“We have to open the economy — MGCQ or better — at the appropriate time,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told members of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop), referring to modified general community quarantine — currently the least stringent classification of areas placed under movement restrictions to contain COVID-19 transmission.
The National Capital Region (NCR) and neighboring provinces were now under general community quarantine (GCQ), one notch stricter than MGCQ.
“I think in NCR, we have an opening [to shift to MGCQ], given the number of cases that we have been seeing. But we will still have to be very careful because of the new variants,” said Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday tagged NCR among the low-risk areas for COVID-19 in terms of case trend.
“This also means that we not only open the supply side — we have to open the demand side, allowing children and families to go out with safeguards,” Chua said.
The Neda chief said school children needed to return to face-to-face classes to avoid learning poverty, even as President Rodrigo Duterte had rejected the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposal to pilot in-person classes during the forthcoming school year.
For Chua, fast-tracking the ongoing nationwide vaccination program will be key to further and safely reopen the economy and resume consumer confidence and spending.
“In the next six weeks, we have 30 million doses coming in. So far, 8.4 million vaccines have been delivered to the people. We have started with category A4 or the workers, and noticed that we are moving actually quite fast on category A4. Hopefully, we can vaccinate as many workers as we can in the next few months,” Chua said.
“If workers are vaccinated, then they bring home much-less risk to their family members, and I personally can see school opening, because those that we want to protect — the senior citizens, people with comorbidities, and the workers who commute to go to the office — are much-more protected,” the Neda chief said.
Chua said that while the gradual economic reopening resulted in a net-job creation of 700,000 in April compared to year-ago levels when 75 percent of the economy stopped under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), they were concerned about the quality of available jobs, which have lower pay and shorter working hours.
Also, Chua said they were worried that nearly a quarter of NCR residents had told polling agency Social Weather Stations that they were hungry due to the GCQ restrictions, while fewer people outside Metro Manila felt the same.
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