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Lawmakers seek recalibration of govt response vs pandemic

Two lawmakers urged the government to recalibrate its pandemic response by lifting the current policy on quarantine classifications and immediately implementing the granular lockdowns coupled with “bakuna” (vaccine) and business bubbles in Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo and AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin filed on Monday House Resolution 2209, which urges the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to impose granular lockdowns, as well as bakuna and business bubbles to protect the public’s health while safely reopening the economy.

They said the widespread and strict lockdowns have inflicted “debilitating effects” on the economy and the people, adding a more targeted response is needed in arresting the Covid-19 spread and spurring economic recovery.

“Granular lockdowns are necessary to arrest the rapid rise of Covid-19 cases, and must be implemented through government-led efforts in tracing, isolating, and treating infected individuals,” they said.

The lawmakers noted that in the implementation of granular lockdowns, the Department of Health must put in place an effective referral system at the barangay level so that hospital admissions are rationalized, hospital beds are utilized effectively so as to not overwhelm the healthcare system; and ensure that reasonable allowances are paid to healthcare workers, including members of the barangay health emergency response teams.

They said the Department of Social Welfare and Development should coordinate with the appropriate local government units (LGUs) in providing affected households or individuals with cash and in-kind assistance.

“The surgical approach of implementing granular lockdowns may also very well result in efficiently utilizing the limited and dwindling resources of the government as it seeks to lead the country out of the pandemic,” they said.

They said in order to bolster economic productivity, the granular lockdowns must be coupled with “bakuna” bubbles by allowing fully vaccinated individuals to engage in businesses and other activities which are otherwise prohibited or restricted across the various quarantine classifications.

Aside from granular lockdowns and bakuna bubbles, the lawmakers also proposed business bubbles that would allow businesses, whether deemed essential or non-essential, to operate so long as they deploy fully vaccinated employees.

The same employees must also be subject to regular Covid-19 testing to adequately protect both their livelihoods and their consumers, complemented by transport bubbles that would safely ferry fully vaccinated employees to their workplaces.

“In order to allow the economy to continuously operate while safeguarding the people, the implementation of granular lockdowns together with bakuna bubbles and business bubbles is the strategic choice because it will focus on isolating high-risk areas from the general population while allowing the rest to open up businesses and report to workplaces, subject to minimum health standards, vaccination rate, and willingness of business establishments to test their workers regularly,” they said.

The lawmakers also stressed the need for a more consultative pandemic response and recovery policymaking, as well as the need to execute policy reforms to review and enhance the powers, composition and performance of the IATF-EID.

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