Experts help create Covid-19 road map

experts help create covid-19 road map
© The Manila Times Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” Concepcion 3rd. File Photo

PRESIDENTIAL Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” Concepcion 3rd and a group of experts have analyzed the continued wearing of masks, hospitalization as a gauge for determining alert levels, and vaccination policies in assembling a road map for the country’s post-Covid pandemic recovery.

Concepcion, who was joined by the Advisory Council of Experts (ACE) — composed of some of the country’s foremost authorities on medicine, public health, economics, and research and data analytics — said the aim was to come up with guidelines for the private sector regarding matters of public health and the economy. “The country is faced with urgent problems on the economic front, but the fact is, Covid is still very much around,” he said. “We need to find ways so that we save our livelihoods without unnecessarily losing our hard-won victories against the virus.” The Philippines has recorded 3,700,000 Covid cases since the pandemic started in 2020. About 60,500 deaths have been attributed to the disease.

The ACE panelists said that while face coverings have been proven to reduce transmission, opinions clashed on whether it is time for the country to relax the mask mandate, especially in outdoor settings.

“It was recommended that the most prudent way forward is to keep wearing face masks for now,” Concepcion said, stressing that the country has managed to keep critical indicators low because Filipinos have generally accepted the wearing of masks.

OCTA Research fellow Prof. Ranjit Rye said the group’s survey last April showed that the majority of Filipinos will still choose to wear masks even after the end of the pandemic has been declared since “there is no demand for unmasking.” Points were raised about the societal and economic costs of continued mask wearing, including questions about its effect on children and how it sends mixed signals on the end of the pandemic.

It was agreed, however, that the issue over mask wearing will be reviewed as the situation changes.

There is also the consensus that the government must at some point shift the responsibility of vaccinating the population to pharmaceutical companies, and that there should be a deadline to make the shift, preferably within the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

The experts also agreed that hospitalization rates be made the primary criteria for setting alert levels. The metric was considered more accurate than the number of infections, and it also factors in how mobility restrictions affect the economy.

“We’ve seen over the past two years how important it is to have experts from all fields guiding us through the pandemic. Experts have credibility with our citizens and they give advice based on science and data,” Concepcion said.

The panel of ACE experts include National Task Force Against Covid-19 special adviser Dr. Teddy Herbosa, Covid-19 Technical Working Group chairperson Dr. Nina Gloriani, Vaccine Expert Panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante, UP Manila Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology director Dr. Edsel Salvaña, Philippine College of Physicians president Dr. Maricar Limpin, health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon, OCTA Research fellows Dr. Michael Tee, Prof. Ranjit Rye, Dr. Guido David and Fr. Nic Austriaco, economist Romy Bernardo and Go Negosyo lead adviser Josephine Romero.

“It has been more than two years since our lives and livelihoods have been disrupted by this pandemic. I think it is now time to set a clear path for how the country must transition into a state of normalcy,” Concepcion said.

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