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P2.1-B income lost daily during MECQ, says Chua

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua stressed the need to fast-track the vaccination of workers to allow the economy to reopen. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

AS MUCH as P2.1 billion in income was lost in Metro Manila and nearby provinces for each day of modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in April and May, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the looser quarantine restrictions helped temper the losses, which are significantly lower than the P2.8 billion a day or total of P1 trillion in income lost during the longer and stricter lockdowns in 2020.

“That is why this year, we have to think very well the strategy, I think the strategy, which the economic team supports, is not to impose general or widespread levels of quarantine. Our strategy should be addressing only the biggest source of risk for spreading the virus and allowing the rest of the economy to operate,” Mr. Chua said at the forum arranged by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP).

The NEDA chief stressed the need to fast-track the vaccination of workers to further reopen the economy.

Mr. Chua said the 6-7% growth target for 2021 and 7-9% next year can be achieved if the economy is reopened, the mass vaccination campaign picks up pace and recovery measures are implemented efficiently.

The government has vaccinated 8.4 million Filipinos so far since the rollout began in February, he said, adding this would help boost consumer confidence.

“Nothing will move if there is no confidence, and that is why we have to work hard on our vaccination program… Hopefully we can vaccinate as many workers as we can in the next few months,” the NEDA chief said.

“If workers are vaccinated, they bring home much less risk to their family members, and I personally can see schools opening, because those that we want to protect, the senior citizens, people with comorbidities and the workers who commute to go to the office, are much more protected,” he added.

Mr. Chua has been proposing to allow children to go out and let schools conduct pilot test of face-to-face classes to help the economy rebound faster.

NEDA estimates showed around 102,000 more Filipinos could join 19.7 million people in poverty if another two-week ECQ will be imposed.

Further, 252,000 more will add to the 4.9 million unemployed Filipinos if restrictions will be tightened anew, according to his presentation.

The Health department reported 4,353 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total number of active cases to 49,962.

The government extended the general community quarantine status in Metro Manila and nearby areas until the end of the month, as the number of COVID-19 cases have declined from the peak in April. 

More people have also been added to the vaccination priority list, as more COVID-19 vaccine supplies arrive. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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