As new coronavirus variants continue to emerge, President Duterte’s economic team believes that the COVID-19 illness may become a persistent infection that Filipinos should learn how to live with.
The economic managers, composed of heads of the Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), as well as Department of Budget and Management (DBM), said that COVID-19 may become endemic.
“The emergence of new COVID-19 variants across the globe has shown us that the virus will not go away easily and may become endemic,” the economic team said in a statement Tuesday, Sept. 7.
For this reason, the economic mangers said that people need to learn how to manage the COVID-19 risks and live with the virus.
“We cannot allow present and future generations to suffer from the long-term scarring effects of hunger, lack of treatment for non-COVID-19 diseases, and the prolonged suspension of face-to-face classes,” they said.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez, head of the economic team, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua have been pushing for granular lockdowns in a bid to rein in COVID-19 cases and revive the economy.
Chua said that implementing granular lockdowns—smaller, localized strict movement restrictions instead of a region-wide approach—will prevent long-term scarring and productivity losses.
“Granular lockdowns, together with the heightened implementation of our Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate + Vaccinate (PDITR+V) strategy, will help curb the spread of the virus, while bringing back jobs lost due to blanket restrictions,” the economic team said.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the Philippines has been maintaining community quarantine restrictions of varying levels nationwide. Despite this, the government continued to report record infection numbers.
Because of the lockdowns that limited business activity, the local economy also suffered five consecutive quarters of pandemic-induced contraction.
But the economic mangers are now optimistic that the economy is now on a path of recovery, as they expect gross domestic product (GDP) for 2021 would grow by 4.0 percent to 5.0 percent.
So far, about 15.03 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, equivalent to around 13.8 percent of country’s 109.04 million population.
With 142 million vaccines expected to arrive in the remaining months of 2021, the economic team said the vaccination program will be further accelerated in order to cover 70 million Filipinos or the entire adult population by the end of the year.
“We reiterate our call for everyone to remain on guard at all times, and to strictly adhere to minimum public health standards,” the economic team said.
“We also encourage both the private sector and the government to innovate and ensure continued business operations and public service delivery. These will allow our workers to continue earning a living and provide for their families’ needs safely,” they added.