The acting chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the government can relax quarantine restrictions starting next month with the arrival of vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in February.
“We will go through another month of GCQ (general community quarantine) but I am confident that with the arrival of the vaccine and the data that we showed that we can better manage the economy by reopening further and safely and we showed that in October, November, December when we opened up and there was no spike in cases, I think after this month we should be in a better position to relax further,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning and NEDA chief, Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, said on Monday.
“We strongly believe that with the data that we are seeing and if everyone cooperates I think we can further relax after this month,” he added.
Chua said there is a need to further reopen the economy, as Metro Manila and adjacent regions that are under GCQ lose P700 million in wages, salaries, and other income daily.
And even with the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccines, people should continue observing standard health protocols like maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, and washing hands.
Also, the country’s economic managers will conduct a monthly labor force survey instead of quarterly this year so it could keep a closer watch on how many people had lost their jobs or suffered from reduced income due to the pandemic. The data gathered will help the country’s economic managers make recommendations on the reopening of the economy.
“We will recommend that once we see both the health data and the economic data but as of the moment I think the decision is correct to hold back until we know more about the virus. From the economic side we will be conducting the labor force survey monthly starting this year instead of quarterly to see how many lost their jobs, have reduced income and then we will compare that with the health data showing whether there were spikes or not with the new variant,” said Chua.
“If both of them tell the same story that we can manage like what we saw in October where cases went down at the same time the economy further reopened, then we will make the recommendation. If not, then we will hold back and then wait for a better opportunity,” he added.