Duterte economic team cold to prolonging GCQ in NCR, high-risk areas
MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers are cold to the proposal to extend quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and other areas deemed at high risk to COVID-19 until yearend, as doing so would keep hunger and joblessness high.
Instead, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua on Monday (July 12) sought to continue managing pandemic risks while speeding up mass vaccination to protect not only lives but also livelihoods from the threat posed by more contagious virus variants which forced recent lockdowns in neighboring countries.
“We recognize the higher risk brought about by the Delta variant. This can be better managed by guarding our borders and enforcing health standards,” Dominguez quoted Chua as saying.
They also preferred imposing localized lockdowns in areas of COVID-19 transmission rather than placing the entire country or large areas on general community quarantine (GCQ) or tougher restrictions.
Metro Manila and neighboring provinces were currently on GCQ, which was a notch stricter than the least stringent modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) imposed in areas with low numbers of infection.
“Data show that the far majority of people comply with health standards and need to work to address their hunger and other non-COVID-19 health concerns,” they said.
“Our effort should be on accelerating vaccine deployment. As supply resumes next week, we will exert effort to increase vaccination centers, including in malls and workplaces, and prioritize areas of highest risk of infection,” they added.
Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), last Friday (July 9) said 27 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were expected to arrive this June and July.
The government earlier targeted 70 million Filipinos for vaccination by the end of 2021 to achieve herd immunity.
Chua said an average of 355,000 get injected daily, which led to a total of about 12 million doses being administered, and 2.9 million already fully vaccinated with the required two shots, as of July 5.
But on Sunday (July 11), Dr. Rontgene Solante, a member of the government’s vaccine expert panel, proposed to extend the GCQ being implemented in Metro Manila and other high-risk provinces until December.
By yearend, only about 40 percent of the population should have received at least one dose, based on National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief Carlito Galvez Jr.’s downscaled target, which was, in turn, in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new recommendation which took into consideration global vaccine supply constraints.
The economic team had been pushing for a gradual yet safe reopening of the economy to revert to 6-7 percent growth in 2021 after 2020’s worst post-war recession when gross domestic product (GDP) slid by a record 9.6 percent at the height of the region’s most stringent and currently longest ongoing COVID-19 quarantine.
Dominguez said the recent easing of restrictions for children aged five and above was expected to “certainly improve the physical and psychological health of the kids and their parents.”
Chua said reopening the economy to MGCQ or better at the appropriate time, as well as expanding the age group allowed to go out under health safeguards, will enable economic recovery.
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