Balancing nat’l health and economic concerns

Published February 5, 2021, 12:27 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The National Capital Region (NCR) – Metro Manila – and 14 other regions in the country will remain under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) for another month until February 28, the government decided last week. We had been hoping that the GCQ would be eased into Modified GCQ (MGCQ) which would be the last level of restriction before a return to pre-pandemic conditions.

The public generally sees these various levels of restrictions in terms of their effect on their personal freedom of movement. Many miss the old freedoms – going to malls on weekends, going to church on Sundays, going to work and to classes.

But many fear and know the COVID-19 virus is still very much around here and in many other countries, still deadly and infectious, and it is best to stay in the safety of home, avoid meeting other people, friends as well as strangers, lest they be unknowing carriers of the virus. If they do go out, it is with face masks and face shields on, and keeping other people at a distance.

In the decision to maintain the GCQ in Metro Manila, the government has had to balance its concern for the people’s health with the state of the national economy as a whole.

For months now since the restrictions began in March, 2020, the national economy has been plunging as factories stopped production, many companies and offices, stores and restaurants closed down, people lost their livelihood and income, and government income from taxes plunged.

Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon M. Lopez said last Tuesday that the domestic economy is now way down but should start recovering to a 6 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth once the NCR and neighboring provinces ease from CCQ to Modified CCQ.

That step towards recovery will have to be further postponed with the government decision to keep GCQ for another month in the National Capital Region. He said this was to give President Duterte at least two weeks to see if the number of COVID cases in the country continues to go down to less than 2,000 a day. It is this delicate balance between economic and health concerns that is guiding government decisions on easing the restrictions, he said.

Many people have gotten used to staying at home where they feel safe, but there are others –perhaps the majority – longing for the old days when they could go to their work places on weekdays and anywhere they wanted on weekends.

We have learned in these last 10 months that we cannot trifle with the COVID-19 virus. It continues to wreak havoc on people’s lives and nation’s economies around the world. We are fortunate the Philippines is doing rather well compared to so many other countries due to the earnest and capable efforts of our health workers.

The nation’s economic managers look forward to easing the restrictions so the economic recovery can begin while our people look forward to the freedom of movement they used to enjoy. All these will have to wait as we continue to fight COVID-19.