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Herd Immunity Goal Should Hasten Recovery

Establishing herd immunity as quickly as possible should be our immediate goal if we want to fully reopen the economy.

 

We can pinpoint the immediate targets of vaccination drives to keep the economy going and restore the jobs lost during the pandemic. Establishing herd immunity through vaccination is an effective protection from Covid-19. Health experts endorse this approach, especially during a pandemic such as Covid-19.

 

Both the government and the private sector can make a significant portion of the population immune to the disease through inoculations. Such approach would decrease the chances of infections for people who still lack the immunity.

 

Immune people will not likely contribute to the transmission of Covid-19. With a greater number of immune individuals in a region, people who have not yet received the vaccine have small chances of getting infected.

 

The challenge in distributing the vaccine and creating herd immunity is immense. But we can start establishing herd immunity in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac in the north, and Cebu City.

 

Targeting these areas is logical. Apart from their dense population, these areas host the bulk of economic activities. These regions account for around 60 percent of the Philippine gross domestic product.

 

Establishing herd immunity in these areas will boost the confidence of Filipinos to go back to their physical workplaces. With the prospect of reduced infections through herd immunity, people in nearby areas can travel more freely to the centers of economic activities. They will visit malls and dine in fast-food restaurants more frequently. Authorities will have more reasons to start relaxing the restrictions in public transportation to encourage domestic travel and allow more employees to resume their work.

 

I honestly believe that herd immunity will be the catalyst for a full reopening of the economy. We have to move fast in reopening the economy. The government cannot forever borrow money to fund fiscal operations and the health-care needs of the population. The government will need more businesses to operate in order to collect revenues and stay in fiscal shape.

 

Herd immunity and the eventual rollout of vaccines in other regions will keep the government on track with its economic objectives and sustain the little gains we are now seeing.

 

Exports, for one, increased 3 percent in November to $5.9 billion from $5.62 billion a year ago after the government further eased quarantine restrictions and allowed many establishments to operate at a higher capacity.

 

The export figures just released last week showed that the growth rate was the fastest in 10 months, or since outbound shipments rose 9.4 percent in January before the government imposed a lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.

 

Our exports declined by nearly 50 percent in April at the height of the lockdown, before gradually improving in the succeeding months. Exports increased 2.8 percent in September but fell 1.2 percent in October. Exports in the first 11 months of 2020 reached $57.97 billion, or 11.1 percent off from $65.18 billion in the same period in 2019.

 

The mild export rebound is being complemented by the surprising figures in remittances. Many economic analysts have predicted a slowdown in the money sent home by Filipinos working overseas. But they held up. Remittances rose 2.9 percent in October to $2.747 billion from $2.671 billion a year ago.

 

Total cash remittances in the first 10 months slightly dropped to $24.633 billion from $24.858 billion in the same period last year, but these figures are still encouraging in the face of the pandemic and the global economic slowdown.

 

We can only be optimistic and hope for a quick economic recovery this year. Our economic managers are predicting a 6.5-percent to 7.5-percent growth in 2021 on the assumption that more people would be vaccinated by the first half of 2021.

 

Before the arrival of the vaccines, however, the Philippines should further reopen the economy and ease the public transportation restrictions. As I have been saying before in this column, our workers are responsible enough to strictly comply with health protocols. I have faith in our workers. They, like us, have loved ones at home and they will be careful enough to avoid
virus infection.

 

Our economy needs these workers. A top executive like me has confidence in these workers. We should be thankful to them for keeping the Covid-19 infection rate in the Philippines low compared to countries in Europe, the US, and other nations.