TO keep businesses afloat in the upcoming two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region, a lawmaker recommends the formation of “business bubbles.”
With more than 7 million fully vaccinated individuals and testing has become routine in many places, Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo urged the government to allow “business bubbles” to operate during the 2-week ECQ that will start on August 6.
“By creating these bubbles, we will promote micro-herd immunity and safe spaces,” Quimbo said. “[With the bubbles] it is entirely possible that we will not incur the same devastating economic losses we suffered during the previous ECQs.”
The lawmaker said workplaces that are willing to test workers should be allowed to operate.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can go to work and can buy food; and, that means, there is no need to close businesses.”
According to Quimbo, the country would lose an estimated P18 billion each day of lockdown.
“[Of the P18 billion] P12.5 billion [are] in unearned wages—meaning value of output of daily wage and piece rate earners—and payroll costs shouldered by nonessential businesses during lockdown plus about P5.5 billion in unearned corporate income,” the lady solon said.
“Since the private sector has been vaccinating their employees, local government units (LGUs) should now focus on vaccinating the families and households of workers. Let the efforts be complementary. Between the efforts of the private sector and the LGUs, Filipinos can be protected from Covid while at home and while at their places of work,” Quimbo added.
But the lawmaker said the government should also implement “community quarantine” for these business bubbles to succeed.
“There should be dedicated buses and other PUVs that are only for fully vaccinated individuals. But [these vehicles must] still [be] subject to minimum health standards,” she said, “through being vaccinated and implementing these business bubbles people will then have increased mobility.”
For his part, House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda said the government should only implement ECQs as a last resort and only when it will work better than a combination of testing, tracing, treatment capacity expansion and stronger minimum health standards.
He cited an experience in May when doctors’ groups were pressuring Albay to declare an ECQ due to a Covid-19 surge.
“I said, sorry, we cannot. Instead, we expanded health care capacity seven times, vaccinated our most vulnerable, strengthened our anti-Covid protocols in workplaces and distributed face masks to virtually everyone. That second wave is over and we never had to declare ECQ,” he said.
“ECQs only work when done early enough. It does not work not in response to a wave, because its impact is lagged. We’ll see its benefits only a month later, since we’re implementing it only week. So, I have second thoughts about whether it will work this time,” Salceda said.
The lawmaker added that the best way to confront the Delta variant is really to vaccinate people quickly.
Pass Bayanihan 3
MEANWHILE, Quimbo, Salceda and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco reiterated their call for the immediate passage of House Bill 9411; the “Bayanihan to Arise as One Bill” or “Bayanihan 3.”
“We also need to promptly pass and implement Bayanihan 3 to fast-track procurement of vaccines and also make its roll-out more efficient,” Quimbo said.
Under Bayanihan 3, LGUs and private institutions will be allowed to directly procure vaccines. Medical personnel such as dentists, medical technologists and other DOH-licensed personnel shall also be authorized to administer the vaccines to ramp up the country’s vaccination program.
“As we have repeatedly argued before, health and economic concerns are not mutually exclusive. We can work for the recovery of both fronts simultaneously,” Quimbo said.