100K netizens tune in to Go Negosyo-MMDA town hall meeting; vaccination-based mobility in NCR tackled

Published August 23, 2021, 4:32 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Over 100,000 netizens virtually gathered to witness the town hall meeting on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that was jointly organized Monday, August 23 by Go Negosyo and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

(Screenshot from Facebook live)

During the event, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion and MMDA Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Jr., led discussions on updates concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on the heels of the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period earlier this month and the current modified ECQ (MECQ) period.

Also taken up was a promising way-forward in the pandemic in the form of Concepcion’s proposal to only allow fully-vaccinated individuals’ entry to various establishments in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has said that it would consider the proposal once 50 percent of the region’s population has finished its inoculation.

“This proposal to only allow fully-vaccinated individuals’ full mobility in NCR will not only increase confidence of the consumers in various establishments, as well as banking confidence, which will then drive economic recovery because it can also protect the unvaccinated individuals,” he said.

Citing recent figures, Concepcion affirmed that NCR or Metro Manila is getting nearer to achieving population protection, saying, “Ultimately our goal is to hit herd immunity, and because we are nearing population protection in NCR, hopefully we can finally attain this by September.” Abalos expressed his support to the Go Negosyo founder’s proposal, and said that the government will work with the private sector to make it happen. He also explained that the recently implemented lockdown actually helped to slow down the transmission of COVID-19 cases in NCR.

“We can see from the data that there is a decrease in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, and I think that this is because of the lockdown [recent ECQ],” Abalos shared.

Based on the data, 70 percent of the total reported COVID-19 cases brought by COVID-19 is from the unvaccinated category. This is equivalent to 15,130 cases from a total of 21,765 cases in NCR.

With 43.5 percent of the NCR’s total population already fully vaccinated, Abalos is optimistic that Concepcion’s proposal can finally come to fruition in the next few weeks. “PA Joey, I think by the end of the month we can reach 50 percent fully-vaccinated individuals in Metro Manila. We’ll do our best to consider your proposal,” he vowed.

Meanwhile, IATF-EID Chairperson and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III said Concepcion’s proposal can actually incentivize the unvaccinated to finally get the jab. In terms of herd immunity, Duque said that the nature of the Delta variant has increased the threshold for achieving herd immunity than its usual percentage.

“Herd immunity should be at least 87 percent of the population because of the Delta variant,” he shared.

DOH Epidemiology Bureau Medical Specialist Dr. Alethea De Guzman explained that because of the vaccination efforts, COVID-19 cases may drop at the end of the year.

“We can expect case projections to drop around November. The earlier we ramp up our vaccination efforts, the earlier we can perceive the benefits in terms of case reduction and decrease in hospitalization,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, Dr. Guido David of OCTA Research Group said that there is a decrease in the one week growth rate of COVID-19 cases in NCR.

“There may be a moderate decrease of cases by September, and this can be attributed to the lockdown,” he expressed.

Furthermore, Visiting Professor of Biological Sciences of University of Santo Tomas and Professor of Biology and of Theology in Providence College Fr. Nicanor Austriaco confirmed that the recently implemented lockdown has an impact on the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila.

“August ECQ has in fact slowed down the surge of Delta in NCR. It may be a bit different than that of April ECQ, but it has significantly contributed to lessening of cases. Fully-vaccinated individuals in NCR have contributed to slowing down of the virus in NCR,” Austriaco explained.

On the other hand, epidemiologist, senior technical adviser, and head of Epimetrics, Inc. Dr. John Wong expressed the need for various measures to complement the government’s goal of achieving herd immunity.

“Severe infections and deaths needed to be prevented alongside implementing various measures to attain herd immunity,” he noted.

To conclude, Concepcion said NCR was chosen as the target model of the proposal since Metro Manila has the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases, and possesses the bulk of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Concepcion further assured the public that his proposal was not discriminatory, since it’s just a temporary response against the threat of the Delta variant.

Also present in the town hall meeting were medical advisers, namely, Visiting Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Santo Tomas and Professor of Biology and of Theology of Providence College in United States Fr. Nicanor Austriaco; University of the Philippines Professor Ranjit Rye; Dr. Raymundo Lo of Philippine Society of Pathologists, Inc.; and health advocate Dr. Tony Leachon.

The online meeting was moderated by ‘A Dose of Hope’ Project Lead Josephine Romero.