FIRING LINE: New strategy vs COVID-19

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Starting tomorrow, the government will be switching up its strategy on containing COVID-19 infections. Up against the lord of COVID variants – “Delta,” pandemic response policymakers are giving the “complete-lockdown formula” represented by the ECQ or enhance community quarantine a break.

The “ECQ solution” has sent too many business enterprises to bankruptcy and even more Filipinos down the jobless road. Moreover, “ayuda” or cash assistance for families kept indoors has exhausted the national budget.

So in its place, granular lockdowns will be implemented only in Metro Manila to pilot-test the idea of adjusting mobility restrictions based on caseload per area – may it be a street, subdivision, barangay, or an entire city. By doing so, economic activity in one city, for example, won’t be disturbed by a severe spike in cases in just several of its barangays.

It’s nothing new, though, for Quezon City, which had already “piloted” this scheme. The good mayor, Joy Belmonte, attests to its efficiency in containing community transmissions of COVID-19 within a particular area.

At present, the reproduction rate draws an upward trajectory that sees daily COVID-19 cases reaching 30,000 by the end of this month. If this new quarantine strategy really works in Metro Manila – the hotspot of transmissions – then hopefully, the country won’t be hitting that number by Sept. 30.

Meantime, the government has about 50 million vaccine doses in its hands and should shoot for wiping out that supply before being flooded with over 50 million more jabs next month.

Speaking of new strategies, I agree with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) that authorities allow the administration of jabs to citizens willing to take them now even if they are not included in the top priority category if only to ensure that these temperature-sensitive vials are fully utilized.

We’re not talking about throwing the priority list out the window. But if, for some reason, members of the priority sector like the elderly and individuals with comorbidities pass on their jab appointments, it is more than reasonable to reappropriate these shots of protection to physically-fit workers who go about town every day to make a living and are most likely to pass on the virus if they catch it.

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