FIRING LINE: Back in business

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The business sector finally got what it wanted – a downgrading of the pandemic risk classification in Metro Manila to a more relaxed Alert Level 3 to allow more commercial establishments to operate and increase their serviceable capacity.

More importantly, the new quarantine system of granular lockdowns with aggressive vaccination and coverage seemed to have worked in favor of economic managers’ long-time argument for a paradigm shift from the previous “lockdown solution” against COVID-19 surges.

This may very well be the more ideal “new normal” in Metro Manila, now that 80 percent of its targeted population is fully vaccinated. Breathing life back to business was never really a selfish request on the part of capitalists who viewed the pandemic more realistically than cautiously. After all, the economy was drowning in inactivity, immobility, and unemployment, just as hospitals were drowning in the stream of COVID-19 patients.

Last weekend, business enterprises got a little taste of Christmas, which is 11 weeks down the road, as families and droves of people started flocking to malls and other public and commercial spaces. Even kids were liberated from their “jailhouses.”

But let’s not celebrate too much. Instead, allow this corner to echo Health Undersecretary Dr. Rontgene Solante’s reminder that the World Health Organization sees possible surges in areas outside of Metro Manila. The more contagious Delta variant, capable of breakthrough infections among the inoculated, is still very much in our midst. And when such surges happen, regions beyond Metro Manila have far less capable hospitals to handle the volume of patients to save their lives.

Yes, our new normal here in the capital can be enjoyed, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to be complacent.

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Meantime, greater opportunity for business establishments to thrive should not be used to oppress employees. Firing Line has come across numerous complaints that business owners have been withholding their workers’ salaries because of their “no vaccination, no pay” rule.

The government never sanctioned this scheme, and such practice is a violation of our labor laws and workers’ basic human rights. It’s about time the Department of Labor and Employment rolls out its inspectors to verify these anonymous tips through its helplines.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at