United Force against COVID-19

We need citizen engagement and private sector participation in the fight against COVID-19. This is a tried and tested formula in crisis situations.

In a bid to slow down the daily number of COVID-19 infections and ease the pressure on our overburdened healthcare system, the National Government once again implemented the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region, and the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal from 29 March to 4 April 2021.

The country's healthcare system is in a critical condition which prompted the government to immediately implement an extreme intervention such as the declaration of the ECQ. The numbers have been staggering when it comes to daily number of cases, active cases, and positivity rates- all at on a record-high since the pandemic started. Hospitals have reached critical care capacities which indicate that they can no longer admit additional patients immediately.

The impact of the re-implementation of the ECQ will have dire economic consequences. Based on data released by the National Economic Development Authority, the Philippine Economy lost about Php 24 Billion per day during the 45-day Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) Period in 2020. Since Metro Manila alone accounts for about 38% of the country's GDP, the Philippine economy is bound to lose about Php 92 million per day due to the newly implemented ECQ.  The impact will trickle down to daily paid workers, and Public Utility Vehicle drivers who will have to reply on government assistance to survive the work hiatus.

The government is faced with the daunting task to balance public health with the economy. Further compounding the problem is the failure of some citizens to follow minimum health protocols such as wearing of face masks and face shields in public. The only solution it has to offer at this point is the assurance that imported/donated vaccines are on its way in the next couple of months.

These realities should prompt government to think beyond lockdowns because these are non-sustainable solutions. There is a need to understand the behavior of people as to why they don't want to be tested or vaccinated. It is government's responsibility to unearth those reasons and come up with responsive solutions.

Visibility of infection patrol agents should be increased to monitor compliance to minimum health standards in public places and spaces. There should also be no sacred cows in handing out punishment to violators, may they be influential figures or ordinary citizens.

The bureaucratic barriers towards the swift purchase of COVID19 vaccines by the private sector should be eliminated and government should fast track the signing of the indemnity provisions to avoid further delays in the procurement of vaccines. With the revival of the economy in mind, the private sector can be counted on as a partner to help cover up for the logistical and financial difficulties of the government.

In the long run, government should invest heavily in the creation of vaccine laboratories so that the country can produce its own vaccines as infectious diseases such as COVID-19 may not be the last. 

We need citizen engagement and private sector participation in the fight against COVID-19. This is a tried and tested formula in crisis situations.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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