As the nation marked the second anniversary of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was announced that Metro Manila and 47 other areas will remain under the least restrictive Alert Level 1 until March 31.
This move is beneficial to economic recovery. The full operation of factories and business establishments – as well as the resumption of face-to-face classes in colleges and universities – will facilitate the attainment of growth targets for the year. According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, the domestic economy could generate an additional P9 billion per week thereby enhancing prospects for exceeding the 2019 output level.
Aside from Metro Manila and Central Luzon, most of Calabarzon, Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and all the major cities in Visayas and Mindanao – such as Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga – are under Alert Level 1. Other provinces and cities are under Alert Level 2.
If Alert Level 1 could be implemented nationwide, it is estimated that this would add P16 billion weekly to national economic output. This would also temper the global economic headwinds fanned by the Ukraine-Russia conflict such as record-high fuel prices that greatly affect the transport, agriculture and fisheries sectors.
Resumption of face-to-face classes at all levels would generate P12 billion per week. Beyond the economic benefits, this would enable youthful students to return to classrooms after two years of homeschooling. Experts have pointed out that this has aggravated the learning crisis in the country.
Indeed, prospects are bright that – barring the emergence of new viral variants – the steady decline in infections could be sustained. According to Department of Health (DOH) data for the week of March 7-13, there were 4,131 new Covid-19 cases or a daily average of 590 cases, which is already 35 percent lower than that of the previous week. Only three of the new cases were severe or critical. Hospital bed utilization is down to 19.6 percent in intensive-care units.
Continuing vaccination – especially among older citizens with comorbidities – needs to be pursued. More than 64.66 million have been vaccinated, or nearly 72 percent of the target population, and 11.225 million booster doses have been administered. Attainment of even higher vaccination rates – especially in lagging regions – would, of course, further hasten the decline of the pandemic.
The most beneficial effect of the apparent return to normal is that it has allowed the citizens to participate more actively in the ongoing campaign for the national and local elections in May. Candidates could now campaign more vigorously, reaching even far-flung areas, to pitch their platforms and gain voter support.
Nearly two years of alternating episodes of quarantine and lockdown have inflicted multiple pain points among the electorate, including massive joblessness and involuntary hunger. These have indubitably fortified their resolve to vote for the candidates with credible track records and are best prepared to lead the nation into a new era of growth and prosperity.