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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Rebound at risk from Covid variant—Experts

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RAMPING up vaccination is crucial to mitigating the possible adverse impact of the Covid-19 Delta variant on the economy, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and local economists.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua told BusinessMirror over the weekend that the Delta variant could lead to another spike in Covid-19 cases. This will also reduce the economy’s chances to recover.

In March, the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) placed the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces, including Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Rizal under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) due to the surge in Covid-19 cases. This cost the economy about P180 billion, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) (See: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/04/16/lopez-pegs-two-week-ecq-losses-at-p180-billion/).

“If we are not careful and don’t manage it well from the source, it can result in another spike. Another spike will reduce our recovery prospects,” Chua told BusinessMirror. “Accelerating vaccination is key.”

Economists weigh in

Local economists like De La Salle University’s Maria Ella Oplas agreed with Chua and said vaccination was the only way to prevent the spread of the new strain.

If the government fails to curb the spread of the Delta variant, Oplas feared the government’s recent efforts, including the inoculation of millions,  would be in vain.

The government has put in place a P2-trillion recovery program which includes the Bayanihan 1 and 2; the passage of the CREATE Law which lowers taxes and provides incentives to firms; and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act (FIST) which addresses liquidity problems of the private sector.

The list includes the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery  (GUIDE) which aims to address solvency problems of firms; the Build, Build, Build program; and the 2021 national budget.

“The government should take vaccination seriously and intensify it. For now, that is the only way we can fight the spread of that strain. Otherwise, everything the government had worked hard for will be in vain,” Oplas said.

For Action for Economic Reforms (AER) Coordinator Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III, more Filipinos could get vaccinated by ensuring adequate supply and better access to these supplies.

Vaccination is important, Sta. Ana told BusinessMirror, since real world data already showed that vaccines are effective in containing the delta variant.

Apart from vaccinations, Sta. Ana said the government must also veer away from imposing restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19. This will only constrain economic growth.

Instead of quarantines, Sta. Ana said the government must improve testing, contact tracing, and quarantining. Efforts to help those negatively affected by the lockdowns should continue.

“The government must continue providing ayuda (aid) to those who will be affected. All this will of course require resources. Government thus should spend more but at the same time see to it that the budget is efficient and responsive to fighting the pandemic,” Sta. Ana said.

Ivermectin, other means

Former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo L. Neri told BusinessMirror over the weekend that the government should also be more open to other means of combating the virus.

Neri said the use of Ivermectin to complement the vaccines is one way to widen the choices for treatment in the country.

He added that the government can also start looking into Nitric Oxide nasal spray and determine if this can be produced locally to make it more affordable.

“It’s good to have a wider array of weapons against this mutating virus. Together with cheaper accurate and fast testing and other precautions we may be able to get back to normal,” Neri said.

He added that the government should also increase the use of vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax since those who took the Chinese vaccines would require booster shots.

Last week, Indonesia recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases to around 2 million due to the delta variant of the virus. The delta variant, first detected in India, has already become the dominant strain in Kudus and Bengkalan towns in Java.

A delta variant outbreak in Sydney, Australia has also triggered lockdowns and the mandatory use of masks while the outbreak in Israel has postponed the reopening of its borders to foreign tourists.

Earlier, Chua said quarantine restrictions and the fall in consumption translate to a total income loss of around P1.04 trillion in 2020 or an average of P2.8 billion pesos a day.

Quarantine restrictions led to an average annual income loss of P23,000 per worker. However, he said this average masks wide differences across sectors and jobs, and some workers are hit much harder, especially those who lost their jobs.

Nonetheless, he said the government’s response this year has improved visits to public transport stations to a contraction of 40 percent this year from a decline of 80 percent last year.

More Filipinos, Chua said, have also started going back to work. Those going to work is only down by 25 percent this year compared to a decline of over 40 percent last year.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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