Cautious move

Published February 26, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

I am in agreement with the decision of Palace to defer for the time being the shift to a more flexible Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) until the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Somehow, it’s similar to one of the four guiding standards in easing the lockdown unveiled by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday,  based on the pace of the vaccine inoculation and anchored on pandemic statistics.  

In England,  the PM has  a four-step plan prior to easing the lockdown with each stage.

I admire the way Mr. Boris described the plan as a “one-way road to freedom,” which we all are aspiring for-a relatively normal life with less restrictions and activities tolerated. Of course, each country has different ways and reasons for imposing and lifting restrictions.

I can feel the dismay of those who  pushed for the shift to MGCQ status. I received various reactions, but the majority support the Palace decision on fear that without the vaccine, the country’s positive data could go wild. Risk aversion rules the air, particularly with our cases surpassing the 550,000 mark.

For now, economics and health safety are clashing.  I can feel the consternation of economic managers, who are tasked to revive the domestic economy. There’s no recipe for  equalizing economics and wellness at pandemic times. Indeed, it’s a difficult balancing act.

While other countries, including Laos, Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, and even troubled-Myanmar, have  received the vaccine not by purchase but by donations from India and China, in our case, there’s delay in the arrival. What gives?

Meanwhile, private firms are doing their share in procuring the vaccine to protect their workforce and prevent the spread of the virus. Food and beverage conglomerate San Miguel Corporation  is one of them. As San Miguel President Ramon S. Ang puts it: “It is our civic duty and our best chance at protecting ourselves and those we love. It is the best thing we can do today to help contain this pandemic, protect the vulnerable, and help speed up economic recovery.”

San Miguel is allocating about P1 billion for the inoculation of its 70,000 workforce as well as extended employees for free. It’s part of the conglomerate’s social thrust of helping the country in its effort to build a collective defense against COVID-19, which has claimed millions of lives worldwide.

Even in the GCQ status, out-of-town travel is slowly being permitted. Monetary Board Member Bruce Tolentino, during our e-conversation, said  his family went on an out-of- town trip to Batangas. It was the first time since the lockdown last year that MBM Bruce experienced freedom, “enjoying the wide open space.”  

And, in between working from home and physically reporting for work at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, MBM Bruce again picked-up wood working. He says he loves carpentry and he built a two-story playhouse for his grandchildren Maya and Doni.

I took the Malacanang pronouncement to mean a calculated move. It’s better to err on the side of caution. As my favorite market analyst, Jonas Ravelas of BDO Universal Bank, commented: “We know the economy has to move. But there’s risk aversion until the arrival of the vaccine. Malacanang has to move slowly but surely.”

Rather than go MGCQ, then swing back to a stricter status just like a pendulum, it’s  better for us to be patient.

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