The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said that prolonging the status quo in managing the country’s coronavirus response would result in more hunger, other sicknesses and far more deaths from non-COVID reasons.
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said yesterday that the age group restrictions should be relaxed, while businesses and mass transportation must be reopened in a calibrated approach.
Chua explained that prolonging the status quo of community quarantine and risk aversion is no longer an option this year.
“In 2020, we saw significant hardships among the people who were deprived of jobs and income that led to more hunger, more poor people, higher prevalence of other sicknesses, far more deaths from non-COVID reasons, and lost opportunities,” the NEDA official said.
He said the ongoing pandemic should be “proactively managed” by the authorities and responses are anchored on striking “a better balance” between protecting the people from COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 problems.
“This is the only way to go, and the people are with us,” Chua said, citing the recent surveys conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia.
According to SWS and Pulse Asia surveys, 39 percent of respondents in September 2020 say that the government needs to balance the opening of the economy and jobs and controlling the spread of the virus.
In November 2020, Chua said this has gone up to 73 percent.
“The people have spoken. Further opening the economy will entail increasing the public transport capacity, allowing gradual face to face schooling beginning with pilot cases, and broadening the age group allowed to go out, all with the appropriate safeguards,” he said.
The NEDA official also cited another data showing that when the Cabinet approved the further re-opening of the economy beginning October last year, COVID-19 cases did not spike, nor did it go up during the year-end holiday season.
“Our experience in 2021 also shows that many Filipinos have learned to live with the virus, are complying with the minimum health standards, and are able to manage the risks in their personal lives,” Chua said.
Nonetheless, Chua said the public must remain vigilant given the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.