The Philippines could possibly be in the last stages of its fight against the contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, especially in Metro Manila where the reproduction number has started to decrease, the OCTA Research Group said Tuesday.
This developed as the Makati Business Club on Tuesday called on the government to open vaccination to all Filipinos, while maintaining priority lanes for frontline health workers, the elderly and those most at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Also, an economic adviser to the government on Tuesday said a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila signals a “happy Christmas” for businesses as the economy opens up in the fourth quarter.
OCTA Research fellow Guido David said the recent number of cases in Metro Manila and nearby regions has started to decline, indicating that actual cases are falling in line with the downtrend his group predicted this month.
“We are seeing good news in Metro Manila. We’re happy to share this with everyone because as we noted, protecting the fourth quarter is very important and I think, with the downtrend, we are starting to see this is now becoming a reality,” he said during the Pandesal Forum.
David said the reproduction number for the National Capital Region has decreased to 1.1, and the growth rate in the region has remained below zero in the past few days.
“I think we’re at the… what we might call the end game of the Delta variant because it’s already starting to decrease,” he said, comparing the Philippine figures on the coronavirus with those recorded in India and Indonesia.
The same patterns are also being seen in nearby provinces such as Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan, but increases continue to be reported in other regions such as Region 2 or the Cagayan region, David noted.
Meanwhile, the MBC, in its COVID-19 discussion paper, said it believed opening vaccination to all Filipinos “can be done after the highest priority persons have been given a reasonable time to get vaccinated.”
“We believe it is especially appropriate in areas with the highest vaccination levels such as NCR (the National Capital Region), or areas where daily vaccination rates have slowed. As the science develops, this should include minors,” the premier business group added.
It also urged the government to allow businesses to mandate employees to be vaccinated provided that the companies provide the vaccines or arrange vaccination by local government units (LGUs) and provided employees can decline based on doctors’ orders.
The MBC said this would require a review of a Department of Labor and Employment advisory that prohibits companies from requiring vaccines, and Republic Act 11525, the COVID-19 Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021, which prohibits companies from requiring vaccination cards for continued employment or hiring.
It also urged the government to consider requiring vaccination for its employees.
For his part, Joey Concepcion, presidential adviser on entrepreneurship, said: “The downward trend we are experiencing right now is a result of last month’s stricter lockdown.”
The adviser had called for a strict lockdown weeks ago instead of waiting for the fourth quarter.
Concepcion cited the findings of the independent OCTA Research group that showed Metro Manila cases were declining, and that the reproduction number had decreased to about 1.11.
He called for opening the economy by 30 to 50 percent to ramp up economic activity just before Christmas.
“There’s no other way,” said Concepcion, echoing the warning of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that the economy will lose trillions of pesos as an after-effect of the pandemic.
He also reiterated his call to the national government to listen to the private sector when it comes to the opening of the economy, saying it would boost their capability to help the public sector during the pandemic, especially in the purchase of vaccines for their workers.
On Tuesday, the Palace said the Philippines is expected to receive about 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of October.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the country has recorded the highest weekly volume with the delivery of at least 9.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week.
The vaccines are composed of 5 million doses from Sinovac; 2,774,400 from Pfizer, including those from the COVAX facility, 961,000 doses from Moderna, 661,200 doses from AstraZeneca, and Sputnik V Component II from Russia.
“This raises the country’s total vaccine inventory to 64,942,000. By the end of September or the first week of October,” Galvez said, adding the government expects an additional 22 million doses in the coming months.
“In the final week of September or first week of October, the country will also get 5,626,650 doses of the second batch of Pfizer vaccine,” Galvez said.
“We have now a steadier supply from Sinovac, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and COVAX,” said Galvez, who is also the chief implementer of the National Task Forces Against COVID-19.
“The government itself, as the country’s biggest employer, should consider a vaccine mandate as well,” MBC said.
The discussion paper aims to contribute to the dialogue on the safe reopening of the economy to protect and create jobs.
MBC also recommends allowing LGUs and the private sector to buy more of their own vaccines.
Data on distribution should also be made more transparent to avoid any perception that vaccination is being politicized, MBC said.
MBC also called on the government to accelerate vaccine purchases not only for the unvaccinated population but, as the science develops, for booster shots.
It said boosters should go first to health care workers, whose immunity may be waning because they were the first to be vaccinated.
“Vaccination--probably the most important part of the war against COVID -- has momentum, and we believe there are areas for improvement and acceleration,” said MBC chairman Edgar O. Chua.
“We also need to plan for the medium term: While the science is developing, we should assume we will need vaccination every year for the next few years. We need to organize ourselves to make sure we have the vaccines and can service everyone’s needs,” Chua said.
MBC said the government should limit reopening strategies to areas with high vaccination rates and there should be a clear, transparent formula for this.
It also asked that vaccinated persons be given increasingly full freedom to work or move around provided minimum public healthstandards are observed.
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