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Concepcion: Mayors, business groups push for localized lockdown

Last July 28, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion calls for a localized lockdown during a private Zoom meeting together with selected mayors, government anti-COVID czars, different business chambers and organizations, and business conglomerates.

Among over a hundred attendees were Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Sec. Carlos Dominguez III, Sec. Vince Dizon,​ Deputy ​Chief Implementer of National Policy Against COVID-19, Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr.​ ​Chief Implementer of National Policy Against COVID-19, Sec. Eduardo Año,​ Vice-Chair of the National Task Force (NTF), Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, ​Chair of the National Task Force (NTF), Sec. Silvestre Bello III, Mayors Menchie Abalos (Mandaluyong), Imelda Calixto-Rubiano (Pasay), Vico Sotto (Pasig), Joy Belmonte (Quezon City), Abby Binay (Makati), Lino Cayetano (Taguig), and Benjamin Magalong (Baguio). Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala,​ ​Chairman, and CEO of Ayala Corp., Manny Pangilinan​,​ Chairman of MVP Group of Companies, and Ricky Razon, ​Chairman of the Board and President of ICTSI were also present.

“We cannot afford to go back to ECQ on Metro Manila again,” said Secretary Galvez. “We will try to implement a more targeted and localized lockdown and segmented and granular approach on the hotspots of infection.” 

Instead of locking down entire cities or regions which have seen an increasing number of confirmed cases, Concepcion called for a more surgical and localized approach to lockdown that focuses on barangays or local clusters with high infection rates while allowing the rest of the area to operate normally. “Switching to more granular lockdown measures and giving more power to LGUs to enforce the lockdowns is something I presented to the President in a meeting. Economic activity may continue and businesses may resume operations especially MSMEs who have been extremely challenged by the pandemic. Going back to ECQ will destroy businesses and people who are trying to restart. The private sector through the efforts of T3, Project ARK, has supported the government in increasing the testing capacity of the country.”

Secretary Lorenzana echoed Cong. Garin’s statement of finding a way to co-exist with the virus while a vaccine has yet to be discovered. “We have to learn how to coexist with the virus. Co-existing with the virus should be the basis of our strategy moving forward. [We should] agree on the action plan and implement it properly,” he said.

Moreover, Secretary Año explained that one of the more pressing issues is the fear people have when going to isolation centers. He appeals to the private sector to consider setting up dedicated quarantine facilities for their employees.

When relaxing, there’s a psychological effect that begins to take place when moving towards normality. This is going to be around for a while. Testing is something we fully support. Aside from the targeted lockdowns based on data analysis which I support, I want to emphasize the teaching [and education] component [and] making use of aggressive data-driven analysis,” said Ayala.

Razon, on the other hand, emphasized that execution is an extremely critical component of the government’s COVID response, suggesting that the best laid-out plans should be properly executed.

On his part, Pangilinan expressed his belief that testing should be more targeted given the country’s limited healthcare resources. He said that his company will continue to support the government’s efforts in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who was appointed as Contact Tracing czar, emphasized that it is just as important to set aside resources to trace close contacts of confirmed cases in order to contain virus transmission.

“Health and the economy are two inseparable issues because without the economy, you cannot have a well-organized public health response,” ARK PCR Private Implementor Janette Garin said. “We need to balance public health and the economy through the pooled testing mechanism.” 

Garin outlined the initial costing plan of pooled testing, which is a result of a study with the Philippine Society of Pathologists, Inc. (PSPI) and Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) that seeks to confirm the validity of putting swab samples of multiple individuals into a single PCR test. She explained that pools of 5s will cost P450 per head; pools of 10s at P350 per head and pools of 20s at P250 per head inclusive of P150 swabbing fee with VTM.

“I really believe that mass testing is vital for everyone, especially for mayors who are leading the battle to flatten the curve. As mayors, we have so many concerns. That’s why we need partners like you. I am looking forward to and I am willing to support the pooled testing facility,” Mayor Rubiano said.

“We are going to conduct 10,000 tests using pooled testing. Based on our initial testing, 5% actually tested positive. We look forward to another phase of this collaboration. We are an essential business district, we have to keep the economy alive in the city,” shared Mayor Binay.

“As of today, we have 6077 active cases. That seems a lot but we also have a high recovery rate. Our recovery rate exceeded infection rates. Contact tracing is something we’re doing and ramping up. [We are] working with Mayor Magalong to adopt the software and the app they have,” Mayor Belmonte said.

“Since day one, we have been working closely together with LGUs and the national government,” Mayor Cayetano said. “We have an open line, coordinating how we move. There is a sincere unprecedented level of cooperation.”

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