"Why is the government opting for full lockdown for Metro Manila when all it needs to do is buy the vaccines pronto"
How serious a threat is the so-called Delta COVID-19 variant, also known as the Indian variant?
If you believe experts, it is a very serious threat to our health. We could get very sick, possibly die, even if you have been vaccinated at the required double dose of vaccines Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and especially if given Sinovac, considered by global reputation the least effective of the new anti-COVID-19 vaccines.
While the Delta variant may be a serious threat to our health, I do not think it poses such a severe threat for the government to declare a total lockdown of the national capital region or NCR this week. We had been through a worse situation, and the lockdown was not as harsh as the one being contemplated.
Metro Manila contributes 32 percent of the national economic production or GDP, today valued at P17 trillion annually. Get 32 percent of that, P5.44 trillion, and that is the share of Metro Manila.
Divide the P5,44 trillion by 365 days and you get P14.9 billion, the value daily of Metro Manila’s economic output. Lock down Metro Manila for one day and you lose most of the P14.9 billion. Lock down the capital for two weeks or 14 days and you lose P208.6 billion. President Duterte has ordered a two-week lockdown (yes, they now use the word lockdown in lieu of the fanciful and esoteric “enhanced community quarantine”), from August 6 to August 20, 2021.
But the lockdown actually began last Monday, August 2, 2021, when the national police placed checkpoints at provinces bordering Metro Manila, extended curfew from six hours to eight hours, and closed down all restaurants, including small carinderias, except for takeouts. So the effective lockdown is three weeks, not two weeks. Multiply P14.9 billion (economic output loss) by 21 days and the loss is P312.9 billion.
Divide P312.9 billion by P3,300 (the cost of a vaccine, like say Moderna, two doses, plus inoculation fee), and you will get 94.8 million vaccines (at two doses per P3,300, inoculation charge, included). With 94.9 million vaccines, you will achieve herd immunity at 86 percent (assuming you vaccinate the entire population of 110 million, not just adults 18 and above, which is not usually the case). The 86 percent is now the required herd immunity for the Delta variant.
So why is the government opting for full lockdown for Metro Manila when all it needs to do is buy the vaccines pronto and apply them on the entire adult population, if it wants to, pronto, quickly, without delay?
Well, there is such a thing as the politics and logistics of vaccination. First, the government I think cannot secure the vaccines pronto, even if it has the cash. The vaccine makers are suddenly difficult to talk with – especially given that the growing belief is that one needs three doses, not just two, in a year, to have immunity from COVID. There has been a massive price increase in vaccines.
Second, the government does not have the capability to inoculate the entire population in say, one month. The fastest it could do, as of August 3, 500,000 doses a day in Metro Manila, or just 15 million doses in 30 days.
Third, there is a presidential election coming during which cash works wonders. A loaded candidate attracts voters like honey to bees, or flies to dirt.
Government has promised “ayuda” or cash help to those hurt by the lockdown—which means everybody. But the government considers only the deserving –the very poor households, which is right now 80 percent or 2.5 million of total households in Metro Manila of about 3.1 million. At four voters per household, 2.5 million homes is equivalent to 10 million voters.
Offer those voters quick inoculation plus quick cash—that’s a formidable combination in a tightly contested election—for president, vice president, senator, governor, mayor, congressman. And who has control of the vaccination rollout and the ayuda cash? The government, of course.
Now, you understand why a strict lockdown is needed for Metro Manila. It is a learning experience—in case you are pretending to be dumb.
Please see the latest on COVID cases in ASEAN. The situation is not so bad for the Philippines. We are still only No. 6 among the ASEAN Big 6 in number of active cases, and No. 3 in terms of new deaths. And yet, our government is imposing the severest lockdown, making us No. 1 in lockdown propensity.
See also the chart of vaccine brands and their protection levels Both slides came from Dr. Anthony Leachon, a former president of the Philippine College of Physicians and adviser to the IATF until he contradicted Health Sec Francisco Duque.