The Duterte administration’s business adviser insisted that citizens should accept that the Covid-19 virus will indeed linger in the coming years, that’s why everyone should learn to live with it, as the country cannot live in fear for the longest time.
During a town hall meeting of Go Negosyo Foundation entitled “BOOSTER to the MAX: A Medical Briefing on Covid-19 Treatment,” Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said the country cannot continue to live in distress and citizens cannot lock themselves out from the world.
“Other countries seem to have already accepted the fact that Covid-19 is here to stay. Maybe it’s time we practice living with Covid virus or else the Philippine economy will suffer, along with micro, small and medium enterprises,” he said.
Concepcion’s remarks were supported by Vaccine Czar and Deputy Chief Implementer of the National Task Force on Covid-19, Secretary Vince Dizon, saying that the country cannot live in fear anymore.
“We also need to have a dramatic change in mindset,” Dizon said. “I think we need to understand that the responsibility of protecting the community from the virus is much an individual responsibility and not just a government responsibility or a company private sector responsibility. We need to empower people and educate them on how to deal with this virus and how to deal with it in the foreseeable future,” Dizon said.
More so, he cited as positive developments in private sector cooperation the ongoing vaccinations at pharmacies and employee vaccinations at worksites.
Medical expert Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, agreed with Concepcion and Dizon, saying that it is highly unlikely for a more fearsome variant of the virus to appear.
“Omicron,” he said, “has significantly constrained the mutational landscape of future variants, he said, citing a study in the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published last December 2021, likening Omicron to a key that has been changed too much and as a result has become less effective at opening a lock.
Most likely scenario
Further, he shared a study from the scientific journal Nature, which painted the most likely scenario that Covid will be like the flu, with only the vulnerable needing vaccinations and mitigation measures. Austriaco said Omicron has made the endemic scenario more likely, and just as importantly, changed the mindset of people who are now more attuned to public health practices as well as symptoms of Covid infection.
Experts agreed that recent numbers see that the pattern is following the experience of South Africa, where a rapid surge was followed by a dramatic decrease in infections.
However, Fr. Austriaco said that the metric that must now be closely monitored is the hospital occupancy in Metro Manila, which has also been dropping for the past week.
“Thankfully, it does not look like our hospitals experienced the tragic and crushing numbers of Covid-19 positive patients that we witnessed during the Delta surge last August and September,” he said.
Dr. Rontgene Solante, a member of the government’s Vaccine Expert Panel, outlined several treatments already available for Covid patients, including antivirals and monoclonal antibodies. He emphasized that it is important to give these treatments at the right time, and cautioned against their use without the advice of medical professionals.
“We also need to understand individual responsibility,” Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ Dizon said, as he confirmed that mask-wearing will most probably continue to be mandated. “It’s the masks that prevent transmission,” he said.
Concepcion said that one of the policies that need to be re-examined immediately is the country’s air travel protocols, stating: “It is quite understandable that public health should be the primary concern of governments. But as Covid itself changes, policy should be also open to re-examination.”
More specifically, he believes that facility-based quarantines and the specific use of RT-PCR tests need to be revisited.
“The entry requirements are so extensive and complicated that they put the country out of the reach of international visitors, and even our returning kababayans. I think it’s about time to really move on. I think we will definitely be left behind if we remain stagnant, you know, in what we’re doing,” according to Concepcion.