As COVID-19 cases rise, business leaders back 2-week lockdown in Metro Manila

Ramon Royandoyan - Philstar.com
As COVID-19 cases rise, business leaders back 2-week lockdown in Metro Manila
Police and barangay officers man the entry and exit points of Barangay 297 in Manila at Monday midnight, March 22, 2021 after it was placed under a four-day lockdown along with 12 other barangays.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Businesses are supporting calls for a fresh round of brief lockdowns to curb Delta variant infections, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said Wednesday.

Citing private sector leaders he is in consultation with, Concepcion sounded a clarion call for a two-week lockdown in the National Capital Region, following the OCTA research recommendation.

“We prefer that we solve the problem early and not wait for the problem to get bigger, because then we will have a lockdown for months. That is the most catastrophic thing in our country if that happens in the 4th quarter,” the Go Negosyo founder said in a statement.

The arrival of the Delta variant could prolong a pandemic that has claimed over 25,000 lives in the country and sent its economy into a recession. This is because the Delta variant of the coronavirus has proven to be more infectious and fatal, especially for the unvaccinated.

Much like its Southeast Asian neighbor Indonesia, considered the new epicenter of the pandemic, ramping up inoculation efforts and lockdowns could curb infections in the Philippines.

Despite that recommendation, a lockdown-weary public has witnessed how strict measures hampered recovery and affected daily economic life, especially in the country’s business and commercial hubs.

Concepcion earlier proposed that only the unvaccinated population should be put into lockdown. As of the moment, barely 7% of the country’s population has been vaccinated.

George Barcelon, chair of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., also echoed the call for a two-week lockdown with ample time given for companies to prepare.

“We don’t want it to be so sudden that everybody is caught flat-footed. It’s important that a preparation period be allowed for the business sector,” Barcelon said, as quoted in a GMA News report.

This way, Bon Liong said, the spread of the variant will hopefully be arrested before the ber months when consumer spending is highest.

Ranjit Rye, a professor attached to OCTA Research, had recommended circuit breaker lockdowns for Metro Manila after a "surge" in COVID-19 cases was observed.

"We need to have anticipatory, preventive, [and] circuit-breaking lockdowns," Rye said at a government briefing. "If we do this in the next two weeks, we will not only bring down cases and deaths but also save the economy."

The Department of Health, however, disagrees with OCTA that the recent rise in detected infections is considered a surge.

"The DOH, however, is closely monitoring daily trends and is immediately flagging areas with increases in rates of transmission based on two-week growth rates, in affected population as per average daily attack rate and/or health care utilization," the DOH said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

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