With the rest of the world easing up on their lockdown measures, the Philippines should do the same and quickly reopen the economy.
The harsh quarantine measures that started in mid-March have taken their toll on jobs and the economy in general. Many unemployed workers are itching to get their jobs back but the limited availability of mass transportation has frustrated them from reclaiming their occupation.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III sounded the alarm Tuesday when he called for a more aggressive reopening of the economy. Sounding pragmatic about the pandemic, the finance chief correctly assessed that COVID-19 would be around for a while unless a vaccine was found.
Mr. Dominguez has urged for a modified general community quarantine in Metro Manila and the Calabarzon corridor, comprising the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon to get the Philippine economy going. Metro Manila and Calabarzon are the country's center of economic activities, accounting for over 60 percent of the gross domestic product.
The government can both contain the spread of COVID-19 and reopen the economy as long as health protocols are observed. The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases should focus on hotspots, or districts or villages where the infections are high, and spare the rest of the nation from harsh quarantine rules.
The strict quarantine rules have already led to a sharp rise in unemployment and steep drop in manufacturing and exports after lockdown hit its peak in April.
Private economists, meanwhile, agree that the economy can quickly turn around in the third quarter once business activities start to normalize.
The reopening of the economy in May has already shown initial positive results. The manufacturing index recovered while government spending doubled as early as April. A further reopening of the economy will immediately restore the supply chains and freight transport services, which in turn should keep food prices at bay and offset the recent spike in crude oil prices.
The task force must recalibrate its COVID-19 measures and start easing them for the sake of the economy and those who are trying to reclaim their jobs.