Solon tells IATF to localize the reopening of businesses and start vaccination

MANILA — Muntinlupa representative Rozzano Rufino Biazon advises the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) that the reopening of businesses in the country should be “localized” depending on which local government units (LGUs) have already rolled out their vaccination programs.

This is in support of an earlier call by a member of the University of the Philippines OCTA Research Group (UP-OCTA) that said the government should begin first with the much-awaited Covid-19 vaccine rollout before further relaxing the quarantine and minimum health safety restrictions in Metro Manila in order to avoid a further spike in the number of infections of Covid-19.

OCTA’s Dr. Guido David stressed that Metro Manila should not risk a surge in Covid-19 cases while the government awaits rolling out the expected vaccines because this could delay and scuttle the successful implementation of the government’s vaccination program.

“For Metro Manila, I think it’s too early to risk an MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) at this stage. Lalo na the vaccine rollout is about to happen. So unahin muna natin ang vaccine rollout,” Guido said during a Laging Handa briefing.

“We understand iyong (economic reasons) but the economy will recover more quickly once we’ve started vaccinating more people and that’s why it’s important for us to have this rollout program in place. It’s also important na wala tayong surge na nangyayari. We can’t risk a surge while we’re rolling out the vaccines kasi it will delay the process of vaccination,” he added.

Before 1 February, Metro Manila’s GCQ status remained for the entire month on the recommendation of the IATF-MEID to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Other areas also under GCQ this month are the Cordillera Administrative Region, Batangas province, Tacloban City, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Iligan City. The rest of the country is under MGCQ.

At least 5.6 million Covid-19 vaccines from US drug maker Pfizer and the British firm AstraZeneca are expected to arrive in the Philippines by the first quarter of 2021. Vaccines of both firms already received an emergency use authorization (EUA) from local regulators.

Meanwhile, 50,000 vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac are expected to arrive in the country this month even if it has yet to secure a EUA as of this posting.

And with regards to the reopening of businesses, Biazon said that starting the vaccination program before easing restrictions would also ensure that customers of businesses will be safe as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The reopening of businesses should be staggered and based on which LGUs have already implemented their respective Covid-19 vaccine plans,” he said in a statement.

“This way, we can ensure that the patrons going to these businesses will not be at risk for infection to the coronavirus and become unknowing vectors,” the solon added.

Added to this, the Muntinlupa lawmaker stressed that the IATF should synchronize the opening of sectors in the economy with that of the Covid-19 vaccine plan for that specific sector.

“We should identify sectors in the economy to open up, and the reopening should be tied in with a vaccination plan for that sector. This will help boost not just immunity, but more importantly, the confidence of consumers to actually patronize those businesses,” Biazon said.

“If we open the businesses without a confidence-building measure such as a vaccination program, the consumer response may not be enough to sustain the overhead cost, as well as lead into another surge of infections,” he further said.

To recall, the IATF earlier allowed the reopening of more businesses like cinemas, museums, and tourist attractions such as theme parks in areas under a general community quarantine (GCQ), including Metro Manila. However, the mayors of Metro Manila have opted to defer the reopening of cinemas in the region amid continuing concerns over Covid-19.

Malacañan has rescheduled the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas for 1 March.

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