A research expert and a government adviser has called on the government to come up with a pandemic exit strategy that would relax restrictions in the country, hit by coronavirus since March 2020.
OCTA Research Group fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco and Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion had urged the government’s pandemic task force to take initial steps in taking the Philippines out of a “pandemic mindset.”
“It is time for the national government to transition our people from a pandemic to an endemic mindset,” they said in a joint letter issued January 26.
They suggested that past international travel protocols should be reinstated.
These include pre-departure testing within 24 hours of departure using either an RT-PCR or rapid antigen test, with additional PCR-based test upon arrival; 3-day quarantine; and arrival testing on the third day of quarantine, with exit permitted upon showing a negative result.
“At this time, the omicron surge has peaked in the NCR and is expected to peak in the different regions of the country in the next 2 weeks,” they said in the letter.
A significant number of Filipinos have already acquired immunity from COVID-19, either through infection or vaccination, they said.
Opening up the country to the world by easing and simplifying travel restrictions will redound to many downstream benefits to the economy, they said.
At present, only the Philippines, Myanmar, and Japan have the strictest travel restrictions, Concepcion said.
“The rest have either lifted curfews and stay-at-home orders, opened their borders to non-citizens and non-residents, and have allowed all or most commercial flights to the country,” Concepcion said.
Concepcion said the country’s travel restrictions could be further relaxed without compromising safety by scrapping facility-based quarantines and instead requiring only home quarantines.
“The next few months will be critical in how the country will move on from the pandemic,” Concepcion said.
“I believe the government should set an example and start opening the country to the world. This will instill confidence in the vaccines and encourage more of our countrymen to take them,” he also said.
Meanwhile, an official of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said Wednesday night vaccination was the key to the exit of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
Assistant Secretary Wilben Mayor, head of the NTF Strategic Communications sub-task group on current operations urged new unvaccinated Filipinos to avail themselves of COVID-19 jabs to get enough protection against the dreaded disease.
“Once again, the government is encouraging you, the vaccine is the answer so we can fight and get out – exit this pandemic,” Mayor said shortly after the arrival of 1,023,750 doses of Pfizer vaccine at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 via an Air Hong Kong cargo flight.
At least 57.8 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated and 6,683,975 eligible individuals have received booster shots.
The government has urged those with complete shots to avail themselves of booster shots for added protection.
In related developments, a top government official said vaccine hesitancy was down among Filipinos except that many were still unwilling to get jabbed because of “fake news on social media.”
An OCTA Research Group study showed that of 1,200 adult Filipinos surveyed, the number of those unwilling to get the jab has dropped to
5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021 from 22 percent in the previous quarter.
OCTA Research said some 89 percent of adult Filipinos were willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, higher than the 61 percent of Filipinos willing to get vaccinated in the third quarter.
In an interview, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that while vaccine hesitancy had dropped, there were still
many unwilling to get the COVID-19 vaccines.