Leaders from the country’s umbrella business organizations decried suggestions to discriminate against the unvaccinated for constitutional, medical and practical reasons, as it runs counter to the objective of re-opening the economy soonest.
At the same time, they urged government to ramp up vaccination and testing, preferably free, to encourage people to be inoculated and tested.
“The policy of discrimination is a half measure that could complicate the early opening of the entire economy, since the elusive herd immunity according to medical experts is impossible to achieve even if the entire population is fully vaccinated,” said Edgardo G. Lacson, acting president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
Many of the vaccinated people are senior citizens and those with co-morbidities, while the unvaccinated youth, the bulk of consumers, may not even be allowed to go out,” Lacson pointed out.
The PCCI head also reiterated the ill effects of hard lockdowns which complicates the pandemic-related problems we already have. “Covid-19 is a pharmaceutical problem and cannot be solved by a militaristic solution like a lockdown.”
The leaders also warned against complacency especially among vaccinated people, citing cases when they may even be carriers even as they are asymptomatic.
Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) noted that allowing only vaccinated people to go out will not make a significant dent in our thrust to re-open the economy and hire back as many people as possible.
“With the same overhead but with lesser number of customers, entrepreneurs, particularly the micro and small, will rather not open their shops again,” he said, citing the cases of the sari-sari stores and small eateries whose customers may include drivers, sidewalk vendors and passersby. “Discriminating against the unvaccinated is not only unfair, illogical and hard to implement, but also expensive for our entrepreneurs who may even have to hire a person just to check the vaccination cards and manage another queue just for this group. The same will happen in transport hubs if we distinguish among passengers.”
If we really have a sense of urgency to address our pandemic issues, Ortiz-Luis further called for beefing up hospital capacity by adding more beds and equipment which should not cost more than the budget we have for contact tracing.
He likewise reiterated the call to roll out more safety- and health-compliant mass transportation to ferry the people to their workplaces. Otherwise, the workers will be in crowded areas scrambling to get their rides and creating “super spreader” situations.
PHILEXPORT Chairman George T. Barcelon echoed similar sentiments, adding that mass inoculation should just be one of the interventions.
“After having taken draconian lockdowns and a variety of quarantine protocols to no effect, the government is now open to other measures to address the spread of the virus. Mass innoculation should not be the single criteria due to limited supply of vaccines that has delayed population protection”, he stressed.
He noted that the Delta variant, as reported by epidemiology experts, dictates at least 70 percent to 80 percent vaccination coverage.
“In the meantime, all these measures have taken a severe toll on our economy and social life. Worse, due to the pandemic paralysis of the IATF/DOH, the future of our youth is also at stake. It is then important that businesses, educational institutions, families and every member of our society should be given the chance to be involved in checking and controlling the spread of infection by testing,” he explained.
Barcelon said that these can all be done at the barangay level and in educational institutions. “By accepting that Covid-19 will be around for some time and learning to smartly cope with it will gradually lead to a new normal and vibrant society”, he noted.