Indian traders urge govt: Focus on ‘NCR Plus’ to achieve herd immunity

A GROUP of Indian businessmen in the country has recommended to the national government the implementation of a “buhos” (focused) approach in deploying all available vaccines and resources to the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble.

This, it said, is to achieve quicker immunity of a significant proportion of the Philippine population.

“Achieving a 70-percent vaccination rate in NCR Plus will achieve herd immunity much faster in the area which will, in turn, allow a faster jumpstarting of our economy,” the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (Phils.) Inc. (FICCI) said in a statement. “That will [be for] the benefit of the entire country.”

FICCI noted that the NCR is the “heart of our economy,” given that 70 percent of all warehouses of goods—both essential and nonessential—are located in NCR Plus, which supplies the entire country.

Majority of head offices of service industries, it added, are all in Metro Manila and surrounding areas that provide such services nationwide.

“While we focus on saving lives, we must also equally focus on livelihood and ensure our people keep their jobs and their income as we beat [the pandemic] together,” FICCI added. “Many in our provinces depend on their relatives who work in the NCR Plus area.”

The “buhos” strategy, according to the group, does not in any way intend to leave behind the rest of the country with vaccination. It pointed out that the proposal will fast-track the realization of national herd immunity, rather than continue vaccinating all areas in the country, thereby spreading human resources and vaccines thinly given the limited stock due to international supply-chain disruptions.

Once the critical number of the populace is protected from the virulent disease, FICCI suggested that the NCR Plus resources must be deployed immediately to other regions so that health facilities are no longer overwhelmed, and the already-exhausted health-care workers are given their much-needed respite from their “daily Covid wars.”

The chambers, likewise, appealed to national and local leaders to systematize its inoculation program by issuing just one vaccine card using technology as its backbone to enable it to open the economy safely.

“A standardized vaccination…card will ensure proper control and uniformity in the many uses this card will have moving forward,” FICCI stated. “Having too many different cards will cause confusion and undermine the authenticity of such… [It] may even allow fake cards to proliferate.”

It cited that vaccine cardholders, once they got their jabs, may be allowed to freely move around while following health protocols, as establishments can start serving those carrying these cards freely and without any restrictions.

“We propose a central database and quick-response codes in every establishment, that once scanned, will trigger a validation using an application in one’s smartphone,” the group explained. “[It will then display the electronic vaccination card of the holder…thus allowing] safe entry to the said establishment or any other similar method of validation to avoid the risk of fake vaccination cards.”

The FICCI has called for the cooperation of all Filipinos to avert the recent spike of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections nationwide which, if left unguarded, will result in a worst-pandemic scenario similar to India.

The most populous South Asian nation had been experiencing aggressive virus resurgence with the discovery of the so-called “double-mutant variant.”

“We are at a crossroad in the history of our nation. We either wait for the next Covid-19 variant to completely cripple us, as it is currently doing so in other countries, or we roll up our sleeves as resilient Filipinos and beat Covid-19,” FICCI said. “Our government cannot win this war alone without us! Time to move, and that time is now!”

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