No Need to Panic
The rising cases of Covid-19 in the country are certainly a cause for alarm for everybody, including the business sector. But there is no reason to panic over the latest surge—we’ve been through this before.
My optimistic mindset tells me that we should look on the bright side of this latest spike. First and foremost, millions of doses of vaccines are arriving in the Philippines and funding is not a problem. Until the significant volumes of the vaccines arrive, however, we should be more cautious than before in living with Covid-19.
I do not want to lay the blame either on a particular sector or groups of individuals for the sharp rise in daily Covid-19 cases. We will not be addressing the problem that way. Clearly, there were some lapses in the enforcement of the health protocols, and some of us may have lowered our guard.
Our experience in August last year when the daily cases shot up should be our best teacher. We did manage to contain the daily cases to less than 2,000 or even below 1,000 in the first two months of the year from nearly 7,000 in August, and there is no reason why we cannot bring the number of cases down again.
The targeted lockdowns resorted to by our health authorities, instead of regional or national lockdowns, succeeded in lowering the nation’s infection rate after the August surge. We managed to reopen the economy step by step and gave back many jobs that were lost during the height of the pandemic.
These targeted lockdowns have worked in reducing the daily Covid cases in the Philippines while reopening the economy at the same time. Shopping malls, fast-food restaurants, and other small retail outlets slowly reopened and thousands of jobs were restored.
The current surge is no different from the August scenario. But this time, we do not need a return to the stringent modified enhanced community quarantine status that restricted the mobility of our workers and limited business operations in general. Authorities should implement targeted lockdowns to efficiently slow down the infection rate. I believe that confining the restrictive rules to pinpointed streets where there are notable Covid-19 cases are more effective than placing a whole barangay, city, or region under MECQ rules. Our barangay leaders can implement stricter contact tracing activities and 24-hour monitoring of infected persons.
New Covid-19 variants that are more contagious are certainly contributing to the current spike. Nonetheless, I am confident that the arrival of the vaccines and an aggressive inoculation drive will ultimately defeat this virus.
The government has just secured $1.2 billion worth of loans from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to fund the procurement of vaccines against Covid-19.
Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, is himself confident about the additional funding secured by the Philippine government. Procuring and administering vaccines, he says, provides the Philippines an added layer of defense against Covid-19 on top of public health measures or interventions like social distancing, wearing of masks, and washing of hands.
Sharing this optimism is Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. Our finance chief assured us that the government is on track to achieving its target of inoculating at least 70 million Filipinos following these new loans.
The Philippines is actually making progress in the procurement of vaccines from several sources. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. last week reported that the Philippines has secured 30 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by US biotech company Novavax Inc. Mr. Galvez signed a supply deal for 30 million Novavax doses during his visit the other week to the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. The Novavax shots will arrive in the Philippines most likely in the third or fourth quarter of 2021. The Philippines is also getting at least 1.4 million more Covid-19 shots from Sinovac this month.
The World Health Organization, through the COVAX facility, in addition, may deliver another 979,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines this week for a total of 2,379,200 doses.
It’s just a matter of time before these vaccines are eventually rolled out across the Philippines. In the meantime, we should just chill out and not panic. Help is just around the corner.