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Establishments Told To Strictly Enforce ‘No Vax, No Entry’ Policy; Mandatory Vaccination In Some Sectors Proposed

Establishments Told To Strictly Enforce ‘No Vax, No Entry’ Policy; Mandatory Vaccination In Some Sectors Proposed
A worker disinfects a theater in Quezon City last Oct. 14, 2021 in preparation for the reopening of cinemas and movie houses for fully vaccinated customers at limited capacity. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

Malacañang on Friday, Nov. 5, reminded business owners to strictly enforce the “no vaccine, no entry” policy to prevent another surge of COVID-19 cases that could close down their operations.

“If you will accept unvaccinated customers, COVID-19 will surely spread. If this happens, we will have to escalate alert levels again and you will have to close down your businesses,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

“So to the businessmen, if you want to keep your establishments open, enforce the ‘no vaccine, no entry’ policy,” he added.

Roque made the appeal as the government downgraded Metro Manila’s alert level from 3 to 2 until Nov. 21, allowing higher indoor capacity for several establishments.

Under Alert Level 2, maximum operational capacity for several businesses and activities is 50 percent for indoor venues for fully vaccinated adults. 

The capacity of outdoor venues was also increased to 70 percent, provided all employees of establishments are fully vaccinated.

Roque also warned the public against faking vaccination cards, saying that individuals caught using fake vaccine cards can face jail time.

“We have a law on falsification of public documents and the vaccination card is a public document. You can be imprisoned for that,” he said.

Mandatory vaccination

In the absence of a law mandating COVID-19 vaccination, the Department of Health (DOH) is looking at the possibility of making it compulsory only among workers in specific sectors like government, health care and those who “are really facing clients.”

“What we are proposing right now is we identify the specific sectors (that) really has to be mandated to being vaccinated,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on One News’ “The Chiefs.”

However, she pointed out that this could not be done due to lack of legislation, citing an earlier opinion of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Vergeire said the government already used encouragement, nudges and incentivizing vaccinated individuals to encourage the public to get inoculated but there are still “some forms of resistance among other sectors of the population.”

According to Vergeire, the biggest resistance comes from senior citizens but there is no official survey why seniors were refusing the jabs. Because of this, Vergeire said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) is already considering making inoculation mandatory.

“Based on observation… a lot of our senior citizens are hesitant, maybe because of culture, fear of reactions and maybe because they say ‘I do not go out so I will not be affected by this virus.’ These are the common things that we hear from our local governments,” she maintained.

The government aims to inoculate 8,254,531 senior citizens but only 4,785,828 or 57.98 percent of them have so far completed their shots.

Data from the National Vaccination Operations Center showed that as of Nov. 2, about 60,406,424 doses have already been administered while 27,749,809 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated.

‘Incentivize, not penalize’

Some candidates in the 2022 elections have rejected the proposal to make vaccination mandatory for all.

Presidential bets Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Panfilo Lacson both pushed for incentives instead of making it mandatory.

In a press conference in Negros Occidental, Robredo stressed the importance of looking at the reasons behind an individual’s decision not to get vaccinated.

She recalled her office’s experience when they conducted mobile testing in communities, noting that there were those who refused to get tested because they will not be able to go to work if the result was positive.

“We were able to solve that when we incentivized. We told them, ‘if you get swabbed now, you will get rice. If you test positive, you will have two weeks’ worth of food supply for the entire family,’” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“I am for putting up incentives… For me, the solution should always be empowering,” she said.

Lacson said the decision to get vaccinated is a personal choice.

“You cannot mandate that to our countrymen. Instead, the government should convince and persuade them on how important the vaccines are. Then you give incentives to those who are fully vaccinated,” he told the media in Filipino during his visit to Cavite.

Vice presidential aspirant Sen. Bong Go also rejected proposals to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory. Instead, he urged the national government to strengthen its vaccination drive to convince more people to get inoculated.

“In my opinion, instead of making vaccination mandatory, we should focus on more efforts to convince our countrymen to get the jabs,” Go said, suggesting the offering of incentives.

For Go, forcing people to get vaccinated is counterproductive, and that the better way is to ensure that the vaccines reach every community in the country.

“If we need to go from house to house, we should do it so we can make sure nobody is left behind in our recovery,” Go said. – With Emmanuel Tupas