Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion welcomed the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to lift the outdoor mask mandate, adding that it is now crucial for the Philippines to have mitigation strategies already in place.
These mitigation strategies against COVID-19 include stocking up on antiviral pills, which he believes is a more practical move. “We should ensure that we have enough supply of antiviral pills, especially Paxlovid, which we are currently out of stock in the country. This will become crucial as people start moving around without masks outdoors,” he said.
“If voluntary outdoor masking becomes policy, it will allow Filipinos to manage their own risks,” he said. “We must be diligent in practicing common-sense health protocols like having good ventilation, physical distancing, and handwashing. I think we have had enough practice in the last two years to know how to keep ourselves from being infected,” he said.
Meanwhile, OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, OP, suggests that masking must remain in public transportation and health care facilities. “This will allow some Omicron spread but in light of the decision of many Filipinos not to get boosted, it is better to allow for Omicron illness among those whose immunity is waning now to strengthen population immunity rather than to face a possible deadlier variant in six months that could kill more people,” he said.
Hybrid immunity, or immunity from both vaccination and infection, has been cited as one of the reasons for the relatively low incidences of COVID-19 deaths in the Philippines in the last month compared to the same period last year. But even scientists who put forward the opinion that natural immunity is more robust than vaccine immunity still believe that getting vaccinated and boostered would be the best strategy in avoiding illness.
Concepcion had earlier noted that booster vaccinations remain a challenge, but that he is supportive of the government’s vaccination efforts. He said, however, that vaccination mandates may not be practical at this time as the focus has now shifted to nursing the economy back to health.
Other mitigation strategies will also depend on whether or not President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. follows through with his plan to extend the State of Public Health Emergency until end-2022.
“This will affect how the new vaccines will be purchased. If the manufacturers are able to secure Certificates of Product Registration for their vaccines and sell these through drug stores or we continue with an Emergency Use Authorization, all this must be cleared soon once the President makes his decision,” said Concepcion.
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