UP team warns vs full reopening of economy
MANILA, Philippines — An independent research group from the University of the Philippines on Tuesday warned against the 100 percent reopening of the economy “unless facilities can absolutely guarantee observance of the minimum health standards.”
“Right now, we are seeing a better trending in our projects…[but] we should not do anything drastic; we should not suddenly open the economy wide,” said Dr. Butch Ong of the UP Octa Research team that monitors COVID-19 trends in the country.
President Duterte announced on Monday night that Metro Manila, which accounts for most of the country’s COVID-19 cases, would remain under general community quarantine despite optimistic projections from Octa and the Department of Health that the curve was already flattening.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez has appealed for the full reopening of businesses to allow the economy to recover faster from losses due to the pandemic.
He said that businesses currently operating at 50-percent capacity should be allowed to operate at full capacity.
As long as minimum health standards are strictly observed, businesses can safely reopen, Lopez said.
According to Ong, the downtrend in the reproductive number and positivity rate for COVID-19 was “encouraging, but it can surge anytime.”
At present, the Philippines’ r-value (transmissibility value) is still at 0.82, below the international standards of >1, while positivity rate is still at 9 percent, four percentage points higher than the 4 percent standard.
The improvement was attributed to the two-week “timeout” period implemented last month upon the request of weary health care workers.
Unless the observance of minimum health standards can be guaranteed, “we should not be at 100 percent reopening,” Ong said.
“By the first week of October, if the positivity rate further reduces, perhaps we can ease restrictions but for now, we cannot say because at any time there could be a slight increase or uptrend in the cases,” he added.
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