Metro Manila mayors on Thursday urged the government to consider easing quarantine restrictions for fully-vaccinated people in the National Capital Region (NCR) to bolster economic activities there.
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos, who chairs the Metro Manila Council (MMC), said the mayors believed that easing restrictions for fully vaccinated people in the NCR would help the government’s campaign to inoculate the rest of the population and boost the economy, particularly industries that were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the NCR being considered right now to be the epicenter of this pandemic and the region with the most number of vaccinated individuals, we are confident that we can find the right balance between safeguarding the public’s health and reviving the economy,” Abalos said.
About 56 percent of the eligible population or 5,492,344 people in Metro Manila were fully vaccinated as of Sept. 8, while 84.21 percent of the eligible population or 8,262,558 people have already received their first vaccine shot.
“Administering first dose of the vaccine is crucial, but approximately a month from now, since most of the COVID-19 shots have a three- to four-week interval from the first shot, those who got their first jabs will eventually complete their vaccination,” said Abalos.
“By next month (Oct. 8), we are expecting that we will reach 77.57 percent or 7,601,685 of the total eligible population… to be fully-vaccinated. The more people who complete their inoculation, the sooner we can achieve population protection,” he said.
“And since the AstraZeneca vaccine has an interval of 12 weeks at most between the first dose and the second dose, we expect 87 percent of the eligible population in NCR to be vaccinated in three months time or not later than Dec. 8,” he added.
Metro Manila remains under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the second strictest quarantine level, until Sept. 15.
Business groups, meanwhile, urged the government to take a serious second look at the protocols enforced to contain the pandemic and change the ineffective responses.
According to Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño, authorized personnel outside of residences (APOR), including health workers, will not be allowed outside their homes if these are located in areas under granular lockdown.
“If they are under granular lockdown, there will be no APOR. That is the difference,” he said.
“A lockdown, whether region-wide or granular, is not a solution, it is a problem,” said Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) acting president Edgardo Lacson at the opening of the two-day 2021 Metro Manila Business Conference (MMBC).
“COVID-19 is a pharmaceutical problem which we try to solve with a militaristic solution like lockdown,” he added.
He said business people are still waiting for the official declaration that will place the National Capital Region under a general community quarantine (GCQ) where businesses will be allowed to fully operate whether people are vaccinated or not subject to the strict observance of prescribed health protocols.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said there are continuing discussions within the policy-making body.
“We want the granular lockdown system to be more balanced in allowing more economic activities and jobs while keeping control of COVID Delta cases. We hope to finalize guidelines soon so we can start after that (by Sept. 15),” he said.
Also on Thursday, Senator Grace Poe said the government’s flip-flopping on the quarantine status of Metro Manila has thrown the public and businesses into deeper confusion and frustration.
Activities, health and safety, and business plans are hinged on the quarantine restrictions imposed by the government, she said.
“Decisiveness and consistency in government policies are not only ideal in a pandemic, but critical lifelines,” Poe said.