Concepcion eyes lower Alert Level in December

MANILA TIMES

PRESIDENTIAL Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” Concepcion 3rd said the National Capital Region (NCR) could shift to Alert Level 1 by December as Covid-19 cases continue to decline.

Concepcion made the proposal during a press briefing organized by OCTA Research on Thursday.

His comments comes after Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd floated the idea of further easing restrictions in Metro Manila, which is on Alert Level 2, if Covid-19 cases drop below 500 to 1,000 cases per day.

Duque’s proposal was opposed by Philippine College of Physicians’ President Dr. Maria Encarnita Limpin, who said transmissions could rise again if Alert Level 1 was implemented too soon.

Concepcion said that even if NCR moves to the most lenient level, the government should be more aggressive in convincing more people to get vaccinated, especially those in the provinces and the Class D and E income scale, where vaccine hesitancy remains high.

“If we were able to do that, then…who cares if cases go up, provided those who are being infected are fully vaccinated because it will prevent hospitalization, and that is very clear,” Concepcion said.

He said that while he understands the concerns of medical experts like Limpin, he also hopes they understand the hardships the business community has been going through during the pandemic.

Concepcion said MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) are barely able to pay their loans and even the 13th month pay of their workers.

OCTA Research Senior Fellow Dr. Guido David backed Concepcion, saying he does not see Covid cases rising in the coming months, even with increased mobility.

“Right now, what we are seeing is that the risk is at a level that is quite low, and the risk of resurgence, we believe, is not as significant. There may be risks, but we can always calibrate our strategy,” David said.

Based on OCTA data, the situation in Metro Manila has improved significantly. For the November 1 to 7 period, the daily case average was 405, lower than the 501 for the same period last year.

The reproduction number was also at an all-time low of 0.37, compared to 0.78 last year.

The positivity rate is down to 4 percent, out of 21,430 tests daily, higher than last year’s 15,577.

The only thing that increased from last year is the hospital bed and ICU bed occupancy, which was at 2,389 beds. Last year it was 2,290.

Another OCTA fellow, Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, believes that the situation in Metro Manila is much better than that in two major metropolises in the United States: Greater New York and Greater Los Angeles.

The Covid resurgence in the United Kingdom and Europe is primarily due to unvaccinated citizens and people whose immunity has waned, Austriaco said.

Concepcion also prodded the government to plan for booster shots in the first six months of 2022 to prevent a rise in cases triggered by the highly infectious Delta variant, especially with the possibility of waning efficacy of certain vaccines such as Sinovac.

“We now have to give the boosters who have taken Sinovac because they are the earlier ones… I believe we have enough vaccines in the country, and a lot more will arrive. So, we can afford to open up to other sectors,” he said.

Concepcion said local government officials should go down to the barangay level in convincing more people to get jabbed, especially after a survey by OCTA revealed that majority of the 22 percent who did not want to be vaccinated were from the provinces of Luzon and the Visayas and among class D and E.

OCTA founder Prof. Ranjit Rye said the Department of Health (DoH) should ramp up its information campaign on Covid vaccination

On Thursday, the DoH reported 1,974 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 2.811 million cases.

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