Cebu City implements ‘bakuna bubble’ to reopen economy safely

Realizing that further lockdowns can be “very costly” to the business sector, Cebu City has implemented a “bakuna bubble” to reopen its economy especially as more of its population have been vaccinated.

Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera said the city implemented the same measures –lockdowns, granular lockdowns, and strict movements– following three surges in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.

“How can you expect different results if you just apply the same approaches? Right now, we have (a) vaccine, (it) is within us already and then why not use the ‘bakuna bubble’? This will also motivate people to get vaccinated and then this will also help make those people working in the area and those who frequent the area feel comfortable and safe,” he said during an online dialogue organized by the GoNegosyo.

Under the bakuna bubble, Vice Mayor Michael Rama said vaccinated individuals in the city are allowed to access indoor dine-in services in malls, and other personal care services such as in spas.

Cebu City started enforcing on Sept. 8 Executive Order 138 on this policy issued by Rama.

“But by the way, we are not restricting entry in the malls, we are not restricting entry in the supermarkets or the like, (and) even in our market, that it should only be (for those) vaccinated. It was purely to start with dining-in and then the personal services,” he said.

As head of the city’s Emergency Operations Center, Garganera said they have been coordinating closely with business establishments, adding the bakuna bubble is a product of constant meeting and coordination with the different stakeholders.

“So far, people are cooperating. They are not really violated because they can buy, and in fact there are alfresco (dinings). Alfresco is open for vaccinated and unvaccinated. So it’s not that really they are deprived, there is a way for them to avail of such services, except for those that are in close dine-in establishments,” he added.

As the bakuna bubble is implemented, Garganera noted that the Covid-19 cases in Cebu are in downtrend.

“Everything goes down but we are not safe yet, we are still in the midst of the pandemic and innovation such as this not only educates people about the importance of vaccination but also making people safe. And then our approach –lockdown, granular lockdown, (and) establishments are closed, that is very costly on the part of the business sector so you have to learn to coexist and navigate this pandemic and one of these is through the bakuna bubble. This is very innovative and this is sustainable,” he added.

Jess Varela, director general of the International Chamber of Commerce Philippines, said the vaccine bubble “appears to be the best alternative” to the usual lockdown measures being undertaken by the government.

“…Especially when it allows management prerogative for establishments –whether they would keep their establishments, their operations ongoing or not, or partially, they would know. And I believe as partners, these employers are quite responsible enough to ensure that the health protocols are served,” he said in the same dialogue.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the vaccine bubble can be implemented in areas with a high number of inoculated eligible individuals, such as in Metro Manila.

“…We have to start moving forward, we have to really make a lot of adjustments –how to accommodate the vaccinated without really discriminating (against) the unvaccinated. Or maybe we can allow the vaccinated to a particular activities area and also allow the unvaccinated with additional reengineering structure,” he said.

“But in Metro Manila, I will give my honest opinion. With the high percentage of vaccination, it’s about time to really give some what you call that some additional privilege to the vaccinated, and also to encourage people to get vaccinated,” he added.

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