President Rodrigo Duterte has nixed the proposal to shift the entire country to a state of modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most relaxed classification of restrictions, before the rollout of the Covid19 vaccines.
Palace spokesperson Harry Roque in statement said: “The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of reopening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety.”
He added that the Duterte wants inoculation to begin as soon as possible in order to allow the country to ease its quarantine status.
Sen. Bong Go also confirmed the President’s decision. He added that Duterte said that reclassifying the Philippines’ quarantine status was “not to the best interest of the country.”
Acting socioeconomic secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Karl Kendrick Chua previously pushed for a shift to MGCQ to avoid further loss to the economy and mitigate poverty.
Chua said that quarantine restrictions set in place since March last year resulted in a total income of P1.04 trillion that year, which translated to a collective P2.8 billion in wages lost. Annually, this came to an income loss of P23,000 per employee.
Metro Manila mayors and the Inter-Agency Task Force also agreed with this recommendation, with the IATF allowing the operation of tourist areas and leisure establishments, such as cinemas.
Additionally, Duterte has also thumbed down the proposal to allow limited face-to-face classes in low-risk transmission areas. According to Go, the President said that he “cannot in conscience allow these things to happy [MGCQ, face-to-face classes] and something might get wrong.”
The delay in the arrival of vaccines has made Duterte impatient, according to Malacañang, but since Chinese vaccine Sinovac has received emergency use authorization within the country, some 600,000 doses of the drug are set to arrive within the week.