A race between the vaccination and the Delta variant

GO NEGOSYO PILIPINAS ANGAT LAHAT! - Joey Concepcion (The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2021 - 12:00am

Yesterday, I celebrated my natal day with a simple Zoom meet-up, inviting friends from the private and the government sector to our daily Mentor Me Online (MMO) show for Go Negosyo, which for the past years has been mentoring our MSMEs live, and raffling cash prizes for their Puhunan Pang-Negosyo. Following our Let’s Go Bakuna campaign, this time, we asked our negosyantes to show their bakuna card with their negosyo selfie as we want to encourage our MSMEs to take the vaccines since they are basically multitasked and cannot afford to get severely sick.

Also, just this week, our President ordered the arrest of Filipinos who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The President, in his address, said that if they will not cooperate with the country’s efforts to end our current public health emergency, it will just be better for them to leave the country. I am with the President on this and I am happy that he is calling for everyone to get the vaccine. It is encouraging that the President is serious about our people getting vaccinated because this is certainly what we need right now. This is the best way for us to attain at least population protection so we can start opening further our economy, then go towards herd immunity.

I am sure the President means well and sees that our solution to this pandemic are the vaccines. Right now, as more variants, like the Delta variant, pose their threat to various nations – such as that which has been hitting India hard, it becomes a race between the Delta variant hitting us soon and our ability to vaccinate as many Filipinos as possible in NCR plus. This is the only way we can prevent the Delta variant’s community transmission. It is good enough that the President has expressed his frustration and that our people listen. Surely, the Delta variant as we have seen in India has caused so many lives, and if we face another prolonged lockdown, this will put a nail in the coffin for our MSMEs. We have more vaccines arriving and more will arrive from both the government and the private sector.

With most of the conversation right now focusing on the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, this was the same topic I discussed with Ed Lingao during an interview last Monday. Talking about the private sector’s suggestion of having areas for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, this suggestion was inspired by what the United States has been doing, especially in their high-risk areas like bars, movie theaters, arenas, and indoor dining establishments. In our conversation, I presented the main purpose of the suggestion. The suggestion is motivated by the need to reopen the economy as more people get vaccinated – we can start our economic revival at the soonest and safest time possible. Adding to this fact, the suggestion is in recognition of the fact that as we move forward, there are those that will choose not to get vaccinated and there are those that have chosen to be vaccinated to be safer. The suggestion optimizes the conditions for the ‘next normal’ for both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and as I continuously argue, the suggestion shall only kick in when we attain population protection – at least in certain areas like the NCR Plus. Here are some highlights of that interview:

Ed: Hi Sir, just some clarity with that proposal to have some sort of separation of the vaccinated and unvaccinated people in business establishments.

Joey: Maybe take it to the right context. We have been meeting with Octa Research, Dr. Ed Salvana, and other medical advisers as the private sector is trying to align basically the exit strategy out of this pandemic. What’s very important are milestones—like our population getting at least 50 percent vaccinated, hitting population protection. Now, assuming we do hit such a milestone, how do we open up the economy safely? That’s very important because I think we must open the economy as more people get vaccinated. So the key point here is the number of people being vaccinated, that determines how much you can open the economy. The lesser number of people that are vaccinated, the more unlikely it is that we could open the economy.

Ed: Tell me if I am getting this right, I am trying to look for a parallel, a comparison. Can we say that what you’re looking at is perhaps putting up a premium space for those who are vaccinated, not necessarily to prohibit non-vaccinated people from entering establishments, but putting aside special places for those who are vaccinated?

Joey: No, that is not the intention. Like how there’s no special place in smoking and non-smoking area, there is no special place for the vaccinated or the unvaccinated. There is just the vaccinated and the unvaccinated area, just like having an area for smokers and non-smokers.

Ed: Sir, let’s talk about timetables for this proposal. You mentioned that we are looking for population protection by September or October this year, and hopefully herd immunity by the end of the year. Are we waiting for those two milestones before having this system in place or are we looking for something that will be put in place in few months?

Joey: These are all part of the planning process on how to move towards our exit strategy. Like in the case of America when they hit the 50 percent vaccinated population, we can move towards that direction and allow people to watch live games, go out, and allow more things to happen. Of course, maintaining certain protocols like wearing face masks and social distancing is important. We have to find the solutions; these broad concepts should come into place. So on our part, yes, certain milestones must be achieved before we kick in many of our suggestions. In the end, it is the IATF who will decide whether to implement these things or not, or they will leave the decision-making to the establishments, restaurants, and building owners themselves.

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