"This by far is the largest vaccine supply deal of the country."
So many explanations are circulating on what’s causing the record-breaking spike of 7,999 new COVID-19 cases last Saturday. The Department of Health has pointed to breaches in health protocols as people now have more mobility, because they need to make a living, and the arrival of new variants. Quite worrisome is the newly detected Philippine variant labeled “P.3” said to resemble the recently discovered Japanese variant and the notorious Brazilian variant observed to escape immunity. Already detected locally are the more transmissible mutations from South Africa, Brazil, and the UK.
Stricter lockdowns can again disrupt supply chains, business operations and affect many jobs, worsening the hardship of vulnerable communities. There are new calls from medical front-liners for another “time out” as Metro-Manila’s hospitals, where half of the country’s active COVID-19 cases are, may become overwhelmed if this infection surge continues. However, the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 Chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ruled out a repeat of economically disastrous total lockdowns and has instead called on the Local Government Units to impose “granular lockdowns” citing their lapses in enforcing minimum safety protocols.
While the first batches of vaccines are being deployed, the alarming rise of new cases in Metro-Manila, Cebu, and Region XI have prompted the NTF to consider the redeployment of vaccines to these areas which Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also recommended. Expectedly, this is getting resistance from the local governments who already received their initial allocation and the risk of wastage from the double handling of the temperature-sensitive vials during redeployed. Another possible complication is the recent approval to use all available Astra Zeneca Vaccines as first dose to jab more health workers. There must be a “Plan B” if for some reason the next tranche needed for the second dose gets delayed.
This sense of disarray would be understandable during the first months of the pandemic but after over a year and even regressing to this critical situation already puts doubt on this administration’s competence and governance. A comparison of the quarterly GDP rate from official government statistics from Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and our own Philippine Statistics Authority shows that in the fourth quarter of 2020, Thailand faired best at 4.5%, the only positive figure in this group, followed by Indonesia (-2.2%), Malaysia (-3.4%), Singapore (-3.8%), Vietnam (-4.2%), and sadly the Philippines is the bottom performer at -8.3%. In terms of annual growth rate, we suffered the greatest economic contraction at -9.5%, the worst since 1947. This is a palpable reality that we now feel.
The best news lately and a welcome dose of new hope is the recent signing of the tripartite agreement between the Philippine government, the private sector, and US-based drug manufacturer Moderna, Inc. for 20 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine. This by far is the largest vaccine supply deal of the country.
Kudos to Mr. Enrique K. Razon, Chairman of the International Container Terminal Services Inc., for leading the finalization of the agreement which started negotiations since last year. This deal allocates 13 million doses for the government while 7 million doses will be deployed to front line employees in the private sector. Expected to arrive in the second quarter, this deal will inoculate 10 million Filipinos. This means 10 million of the government and private sector work force will become more productive and become a positive contributor to the economy because of the risk of falling to severe COVID-19 complications would have been neutralized. The two-dose Moderna vaccine has a 94-percent efficacy rate and was authorized for emergency use in the United States.
This is again a sterling example of how the private sector plays a crucial role in rebounding from this pandemic crisis and how industry leaders are initiating interventions on all fronts in the spirit of public-private partnerships. Industry thought leaders will be gathering in a virtual roundtable discussion on March 26, 2021 hosted by the Stratbase ADR Institute in partnership with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Employers Confederation of the Philippines and BowerGroupAsia. Heads of major industries will share how their business groups are helping to pull the country out of this deep economic recession and how all sectors can work together in a united effort. Insights on the current issues and solutions in the context of the evolving, economic, health, and political environment will surely be of interest specially to policy makers.
I highly recommend registering to this rare aggrupation of concerned business leaders. Do feel free to register and listen to some voices of hope for a change: