TO help improve the Covid-19 response by the government, the Makati Business Club (MBC) has proposed a three-pronged strategy focusing on the vaccination rollout, safe economy reopening measures and health-care workers.
The recommendations by the business group were presented amid the surge of Covid-19 Delta variant cases, slowdown in business activities and high utilization of hospital capacities.
While recognizing the government efforts in vaccine purchases, MBC Chairman Edgar O. Chua said, “there are areas for improvement and acceleration.” The business group, for one, noted that the Philippines is behind its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam in terms of vaccination rollout.
“We also need to plan for the medium term: While the science is developing, we should assume we will need vaccination every year for the next few years. We need to organize ourselves to make sure we have the vaccines and can service everyone’s needs,” Chua added.
MBC suggested to keep the priority lanes for A1, A2, A3 and A4 in the vaccination centers while still opening the inoculation to the public. To make vaccine allocation strategic and efficient, the group said there should be a means of accounting for the population, number of cases and number of unvaccinated.
“Vaccines should also be given corresponding to LGUs’ [local government units] ability to vaccinate, while helping LGUs with less capacity to increase their capacity,” MBC pointed out.
The government was also urged to accelerate vaccine purchases for booster shots, in addition to the doses for the unvaccinated population. As such, MBC said, the government should allow LGUs and the private sector to purchase more of their own Covid-19 doses.
To facilitate micro-herd immunity and granular lockdowns, MBC said the “government should allow businesses to require employees to get vaccinated, provided that the companies provide the vaccines or arrange vaccination by LGUs, and provided employees can decline based on doctors’ orders.”
The business group also encouraged government and businesses to offer more incentives to boost vaccination rates.
While vaccination is key, Chua said, this should be complemented with other measures as well to allow safe reopening of the economy.
“We cannot just vax our way to reopening and recovery,” he stressed. “We need physical facilities, tech-enabled systems, financially-viable hospitals, and properly-paid health-care workers.”
MBC asked the construction of new buildings or conversion of existing ones to hospital facilities and quarantine and isolation systems. This, as the group sought for better way—which may require information technology-backed system—to direct patients to available hospital beds and appropriate facility based on the patient’s conditions.
A unified digital contact-tracing system, which can be a network of already existing local digital platforms, can be very helpful in containing Covid-19 cases, MBC said, urging the government to require establishments to implement it.
“This may be less useful at current infection levels but when these level drop, when we enter endemic stage, this will be very useful in helping contain outbreaks,” the group said.
For the vaccine digital certificate, MBC said the government should improve the data entry as “40 percent of applications for the vax certificate fail due to erroneous data.” It will also be better if the digital certificates are linked to the contact-tracing systems, the group added.
Bakuna bubbles, granular lockdown
IN implementing so-called bakuna bubbles and granular lockdowns, MBC said reopening should be limited to areas with high vaccination rates, calling for a “clear” and “transparent” scheme.
The vaccinated population should be allowed further mobility, MBC said, given they comply with minimum public health standards.
“If and when unvaccinated workers need to be kept at home, they should be allowed to work from home if it is financially and practically possible,” MBC said, noting they should also be provided “guidance on practices at home.”
The business group noted that some companies with more resources provide on-site housing to aid the workers.
MBC, in addition, recommended that “government pay for more public transportation that can accommodate more commuters, given physical distancing rules.”
Welcoming the physical reopening of the schools, meanwhile, Chua said, “now the agenda is to get it started and accelerate its expansion.”
MBC acknowledged that the health-care sector has been on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, the business group finds it “disturbing that hospitals and health-care workers themselves say they are not getting money that it due to them or was promised to them.”
It revived its call for the government to address the nonpayment of reimbursements by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation for hospital claims. This, in addition to accelerating the payment of the Special Risk Allowance to the health-care workers.
“We are very concerned about the numerous resignations of health-care workers due to risks, low pay and poor conditions,” MBC stressed.
With this, it urged the government to provide the necessary funding to support the frontliners.
“The recommendations…will take a lot of work but the private sector is, as always, prepared to help the national and local governments to craft measures that can enable the safe reopening of our economy,” the MBC said.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes