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Open the Economy or Vaccines?

Government officials talk about opening the economy like a magic pill to address the crisis our country faces. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte looked like he had no clue about the wisdom of easing or continuing the lockdown in Metro Manila amid the continuing surge in Covid-19 cases.

Our country’s best hospitals are in the area. But Covid-19 patients line up outside the emergency departments with only hope of getting a bed, not yet an ICU bed. We read about sad stories of whole families huddled outside hospitals. Some managed to get a bed in hospitals outside Metro Manila. A bed is only vacated with the death, not recovery, of a patient.

The rate of new infections daily remained within the range of 10,000-15,000.

The surge has not just overwhelmed the health system in Metro Manila. Top corporations are being paralyzed when their executives go down with Covid-19. For instance, just the absence of key accounting personnel in Makati undermines the processing of payments of the firm nationwide. What happens when a branch or subcontractor here in Metro Cebu would not get their checks for several weeks?

President Duterte talked about the need to open the economy because people need to work and earn. They need to eat. But how can businesses thrive with no customers going out of their homes?

The point is to address first the health situation. Aside from the usual problems the country faced and failed to solve in 2020, we are failing in getting enough vaccines to inoculate some 70 million Filipinos.

Cebu is in a particularly difficult situation. The Cebu City leadership has so far failed to address the health situation even as it entered other controversies like the Carbon privatization project. At the provincial level, Gov. Gwen Garcia believes her focus on less strict health protocols has helped the economy.

But are officials serious about vaccinations? How many doses of vaccines are so far consumed? How many doses do we have?