'Practice living with COVID, make PH more accessible to int'l travelers'–Concepcion

Published January 21, 2022, 3:49 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Jose ‘Joey’ Concepcion III reiterated his call for the re-examination of the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) containment policies “to reflect current developments”.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion (Photo from Go Negosyo Facebook page)

“We can’t continue to lock ourselves out from the world,” Concepcion said Friday, Jan. 21, during a virtual townhall meeting dubbed BOOSTER to the MAX: A Medical Briefing on COVID-19 Treatment.

“Other countries seem to have already accepted the fact that COVID is here to stay. Maybe it’s time we practice living with COVID or else the Philippine economy will suffer and along with it, its MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises),” he said.

Concepcion said that one of the policies that need to be re-examined immediately is the country’s air travel protocols.

“It is quite understandable that public health should be the primary concern of governments. But as COVID itself changes, (the) policy should be also open to re-examination,” reckoned the Palace official.

More specifically, he believes that facility-based quarantines and the specific use of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests need to be revisited.

“The entry requirements are so extensive and complicated that they put the country out of the reach of international visitors, and even our returning kababayans,” noted Concepcion, who has been very active in terms of assisting the national government and giving suggestions throughout the pandemic.

“I think it’s about time to really move on. I think we will definitely be left behind if we remain stagnant, you know, in what we’re doing,” he said.

The townhall meeting was organized by Go Negosyo. It was streamed on Facebook live.

OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, one of the participants in the meeting, agreed with Concepcion, saying that it is highly unlikely for a more fearsome variant of the coronavirus to appear.

“Omicron…has significantly constrained the mutational landscape of future variants,” he said.

Austriaco cited a paper by the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published last December 2021, which likened Omicron to a key that has been changed too much and as a result, it has become less effective at opening a lock.

He also shared a study from the scientific journal Nature, which painted the most likely scenario that COVID will be like the flu, with only the vulnerable needing vaccinations and mitigation measures.

Austriaco said Omicron has made the endemic scenario more likely, and just as importantly, changed the mindset of people who are now more attuned to public health practices as well as symptoms of COVID infection.

“It is time to move from crisis to control, from fear to responsibility,” he said.

The experts from OCTA Research, who have been tracking data on the pandemic, agreed that recent numbers see that the pattern is following the experience of South Africa, where a rapid surge was followed by a dramatic decrease in infections.