We are now seeing fewer Covid-19 cases — less than 9,000 a day nationwide during the week and less than 2,000 in the National Capital Region (NCR) — a downward trend overall. OCTA Research, the country’s Covid-19 watchdog, said cases in the region are decreasing weekly by 30 percent
This prompted the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to place NCR under Alert Level 3, a welcome opportunity for businesses to bounce back and resume their operations.
OCTA Research fellow Guido David attributed the decrease to the citizens’ adherence to safety and health protocols, such as the wearing of masks and observing social distancing. The country’s inoculation program also contributed to the downward trend.
Effective today until end the month, NCR will be under Alert Level 3, and if the downtrend trend of Covid cases is sustained, the region might be placed under a lower alert level by next month, and an even lower alert come Christmas season.
Under Alert Level 3, individuals are allowed to go out of their houses. Exercising outdoors is once again permitted. We can now finally experience some sense of normalcy, except in cases and areas where local government units (LGU) implement stricter measures.
More eating places are also allowed to operate with a limited capacity of 30 percent for vaccinated individuals and 50 percent capacity for outdoor dining. Some 9,600 establishments with Safety Seal certifications are allowed to operate with an additional 10 percent in capacity. This will help restaurants and salons cover amortization and salaries.
Traditionally, the fourth quarter is critical because this is when consumer spending is high. If we don’t allow more capacity soon and businesses begin 2022 without enough income, it will be harder for them to survive.
I can’t help but feel optimistic as we start opening our economy, similar to what Malaysia and Thailand are doing now.
NCR’s vaccination rate has now finally been translated into a huge improvement in our situation which, even anti-vaxxers, will not be able to refute quite easily. With the downtrend in cases in the national level, we can gradually implement the same measures implemented in NCR in other parts of the country.
According to Vaccine Expert Panel chairperson Dr. Nina Gloriani, the total vaccination rate of the country remains relatively low at 22 percent. To date, at least 23 million individuals have been fully vaccinated, which is still far from the recalibrated target of 50 percent of the population recently set by President Rodrigo Duterte. The government is still keen on fully vaccinating 70 percent of the population by year-end.
There are now talks and suggestions from medical experts about giving booster shots to priority groups who received Sinovac or Sinopharm following reports on their now waning efficacy.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Latin American studies indicate that Sinovac and Sinopharm perform less well over time and that a three-dose schedule provides stronger immune response. This was seen in people who were either 60 years old and up, or have compromised immune systems.
With this, WHO is recommending to give priority groups a booster shot, one to three months after their second dose. The government should have a balanced strategy to sustain or even accelerate the vaccination rate, and also provide booster shots to those who need it.
NCR’s improving situation is a proof that vaccines are key to jumpstart economic recovery. With at least 80 percent of NCR’s eligible population already fully vaccinated, more vaccine supplies can now be allocated to other regions.
Achieving herd immunity is a collective effort that must come from LGU nationwide. We all need to be on our toes to reach this goal, but also be flexible to adjust to new findings and recommendations from global health experts.
We are headed in the right direction. We know enough to approach the situation with caution and vigilance. We know more about how to live with Covid-19 today than we did last year. We may never eliminate the virus in the country, but we can rely on the protection that vaccine provides.