Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez expressed hopes that the unemployment rate in the country could go back to the pre-COVID level as he expects wider reopening of the domestic economy and easing of quarantine restrictions by the first quarter next year.
Lopez said at the first Economic Cluster virtual presser of the Presidential Communications Operations Office where he also disclosed that he tested COVID-19 positive after being exposed last Tuesday to a person who also tested positive. The DTI chief, however, said he is asymptomatic but was already in full isolation, although he is still attending virtually all his meetings and appearances as scheduled.
“We are hoping that our improved numbers will continue this Christmas so by January we could have a modified general community quarantine,” said Lopez adding that more sectors and communities may be allowed at higher capacities in January next year.
As the latest October unemployment rate eased up to 8.7 percent, Lopez raised the country can go back to the 5 percent jobless rate pre-COVID.
He noted there are only 7 to 8 areas under GCQ at present while the majority of the country are now under modified GCQ, allowing more sectors to operate liberally although the sectors under Category 4 are still limited to 50 percent of capacity.
To further improve the numbers, Lopez urged everyone to observe proper physical distancing and wearing of face masks and face shields or simply follow the 7 Commandments to fight COVID.
“Hopefully we continue with the improvement in our numbers so we could welcome a better New
Year,” he said as he urged for more cooperation and discipline on 7 Commandments to avoid the spread of the virus that would create more confidence to open more sectors and lower the quarantine level by next year.
Already, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has allowed the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibits) at 30 percent capacity. Fears have been raised that the gradual reopening of the MICE and more sectors might trigger a surge in infections.
IATF Vice-Chairman Karlo Nograles, who is also Cabinet Secretary, said MICE is one sector that also needs help where risks can be very well managed. He explained that in allowing the reopening of sectors was in consideration of the reviving economy, providing more jobs to Filipinos, without sacrificing life. Nograles cited the need to rebuild confidence and this can only be done by opening the economy wider and ensuring that the spread of the virus is further contained.