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Phl Must Learn To Live With COVID Or ‘We Are Finished’ – Concepcion

Phl Must Learn To Live With COVID Or ‘We Are Finished’ – Concepcion
Individuals wait in the bleachers of a sports center in Marikina City for their Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 on Sept. 3, 2021. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion believes the government and the Filipinos must learn to live with COVID-19 or “we are finished.”


Concepcion has been proposing various measures to reopen the economy and allow increased mobility for vaccinated individuals, but these are being called premature or even discriminatory.


But Concepcion maintains that the pandemic is going to be a long fight and “if we don't learn”  to live with COVID, “we are finished.”


Last month, Concepcion raised the possibility of having “bakuna (vaccine) bubbles” in the country where vaccinated individuals would be allowed mobility in certain places.


He said this would be a way to spur the economy rather than imposing lockdowns every time there is a surge in COVID-19 cases.


Without innovations, Concepcion told “Agenda” on One News on Monday, Sept. 6, “many people would suffer.”


Under the proposal, malls in the National Capital Region or NCR will be allowed to accept both the vaccinated and unvaccinated and let individual shops like restaurants, salons and gyms implement the vaccine bubble.


For the vaccinated people, they can present a vaccination card while for those unvaccinated, a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or antigen test with 48 hours or 72 hours before entry.


Concepcion stressed that vaccine bubbles should only cover vaccinated people because there are certain business establishments in malls that are high risks such as casual dining restaurants, salons, gyms, and spas.


According to him, this is nothing new as some countries such as the United States, France, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, have been implementing these vaccine bubbles.


“So many countries are moving towards this direction. The approach of trying to save both lives and livelihoods is quite challenging and as we can see we struggle between a huge lockdown and were moving towards granular lockdowns,” he pointed out.


On Monday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced that Metro Manila will shift to the more lenient general community quarantine beginning Wednesday, Sept. 8, but it will go with the pilot implementation of granular lockdowns in areas with high COVID-19 cases. He noted if effective, the granular lockdowns would replace the existing quarantine qualifications.


More than 15 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) reported on Tuesday, Sept. 7.


Based on DOH’s Vaccine Statistics, a total of 15,033,354 have “already gotten the complete protection of the COVID-19 vaccines” as of Sept. 5.


This is part of the 35,838,964 doses have already been administered since the vaccination program started last March 1. Data showed that total of 20,805,610 first doses have been given.


By priority groups, some 2.03 million healthcare workers (A1) are fully vaccinated while 4.01 million senior citizens (A2) already received their complete doses.

On the other hand, some 5.28 million are fully vaccinated among people with comorbidities (A3). 

Also fully vaccinated are some 3.05 million frontline workers (A4) are fully vaccinated and 635,000 poor population (A5).

Unvaccinated people can’t hold the country hostage


On comments that his proposal is being discriminatory, the presidential adviser said unvaccinated people cannot hold the country hostage as public health is at stake during these trying times.


Read more: WHO, DOH Oppose ‘Bakuna Bubble’ Being Pushed By Businesses


He noted that there are two types of unvaccinated individuals—those who are waiting for their turn to get the shot and those who are not willing to take the vaccine as they have certain principles that they believe in.


Concepcion said unvaccinated people are flooding the hospitals as many of them get severe COVID-19 and they have to be protected.


“What is happening in our country,” he noted,  is that is has become the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”


“That's the real story here in the Philippines,” he said.


Concepcion emphasized the massive vaccination campaign in the country should continue as the COVID-19 Delta variant has been a game changer.


If the vaccine bubble concept would sit well with the retail sector, Concepcion expressed belief that it could also certainly work for domestic tourism.


“I'm getting calls (from a) hotel owner in Boracay who is quite stressed… We have to create domestic tourism activity,” he said.


Economist: Reopen businesses


Amid the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, an economist also expressed belief that reopening businesses in Metro Manila could help recoup them some of the losses brought about by the lockdowns and save parts of the economy.


Andrew Masigan, chief executive officer of Advent Manila Hospitality Group Inc., told “The Chiefs” on One News on Wednesday, Sept. 1, that “stopping and starting” businesses, accumulating inventory, ramping up production is not an easy thing to do.”


“You know it's very difficult... You have to remember some of us…we have let's say, 400 employees and we have to put them in furlough for a month or two weeks,” Masigan emphasized.


Masigan, who owns and manages a restaurant, pointed out that it takes three weeks for business establishments to get back on the “saddle” after the lockdowns imposed by the government. He added that the economy is already “tanking.”


The restaurateur backed the idea of vaccine bubbles being pushed by Concepcion and other businesses, at least in Metro Manila, as this could mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic restrictions on the economy.


“Bakuna bubble was patterned after the model of Singapore, France, Spain, and soon… Indonesia,” he said.


Masigan suggested that dine-in restaurants be allowed to operate by up to 50% capacity through the vaccine bubble.


“If a business closes, 63 people…that’s the average number of employees per Filipino corporation, business establishment, lose their jobs and lose their livelihoods,” Masigan pointed out.


“The latest data of DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) is that… 260,000 business establishments have already indefinitely closed or have declared bankruptcy and that’s how serious the situation is,” he said.


For the affected industries, the economist argued that businesses still have expenses to pay during the lockdowns – such as payroll, insurance, rent, and utilities.


“It doesn't mean that if it’s lockdown, overhead expenses stop. I mean, you have all these expenses accruing without the sales to back them up,” he continued.


“Our point naman here… is that COVID is here to stay, it will be a part of life,” Masigan said.


Like Concepcion, Masigan pushed for the need to make businesses still viable despite the pandemic instead of locking down many areas every time there is a surge in cases.


No discrimination


He also underscored that there is no discrimination in the proposal as malls will accept both those vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals but with an RT-PCR test from 48 hours ago. He added allowing the vaccinated people the freedom of movement could save their businesses. “That’s the whole rationale.”


Whether it's a bubble for NCR or cities that achieve herd immunity, or a granular lockdown, either way is fine with them as long as certain aspects of the economy can operate.


Online classes, capital flight


Masigan, who also sits in the Spanish and European Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines, also bared that the current restrictions on face-to-face classes imposed by the government in the country appeared to be “the biggest reason for capital flight” among investors.


“Because foreigners and expats, it’s been a year and a half, and their children haven’t been in school and it’s not healthy for their mental well-being,” he explained.


“Seriously, many of them are leaving in alarming numbers together with capital and expansion plans,” Masigan disclosed.


In Singapore and Thailand, Masigan cited the bubble model is being used to manage the situation as both the faculty and the staff of the schools are fully vaccinated. He said this has been also effective in Spain and France since last year. – With Sheila Crisostomo