The Philippines might shift into modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) in May if the government’s vaccination program goes as planned, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Monday.
Galvez, who was among the first government officials to be inoculated with the China-made Sinovac Biotech jab at the Philippine General Hospital, said the country may ease restrictions and resume face-to-face classes as early as the second quarter of the year should the vaccination drive goes smoothly.
“It is possible in the second quarter, around mid-second quarter. In May, once the AstraZeneca [vaccines] arrive, the ones we bought, and the Novavax, and also most likely if the promise of COVAX arrives, 6.5 million doses, this coming second quarter,” Galvez said.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he is considering placing the entire country under the least restrictive MGCQ once the country has a stockpile of enough vaccine doses.
Duterte has said he expects normalcy in the Philippines to come in early 2023.
“If I see that there are a lot of vaccines, I’ll open everything… People have to eat, people have to work, people have to pay for their upkeep and the only way to do it is to open the economy and for businesses to regrow. Without that, we’re dead,” he said after welcoming the arrival of 600,000 vials of Sinovac vaccines from China.
The chief executive earlier rejected the proposal of his economic managers to put the entire country under MGCQ this month.
With his decision, pandemic epicenter Metro Manila remains under general community quarantine, its quarantine classification since June, except for a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine in August.
The Cabinet’s economic cluster has been hoping to ease quarantine restrictions in the capital region, which accounts for 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, to resuscitate the economy after it saw last year its worst contraction since 1947.
Under MGCQ, all private and public offices can also resume operations at full capacity, with special remote arrangements for persons aged 60 and above, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions.
The country reported 2,037 additional coronavirus infections, raising the nation’s tally to 578,381. Of these, 31,708 are active cases, which is 5.5 percent of the total Covid-19 caseload in the country.
Over 12,300 individuals have so far died from the dreaded illness.