Concepcion: Continue wearing face masks –

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, with experts who are part of the advisory group formed to guide the private sector to the new normal, is recommending the continued wearing of face masks, use of hospitalization rates in setting alert levels, and setting a deadline for making COVID-19 vaccines commercially available in the country.

Concepcion, in a statement yesterday, said these recommendations were discussed during the initial meeting of the Advisory Council of Experts (ACE) he convened on June 24, to provide guidance to the private sector on matters concerning public health and the economy.

Those part of the ACE are 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, Ranjit Rye, Guido David and Fr. Nic Austriaco; as well as economist Romeo Bernardo, and Go Negosyo lead adviser Josephine Romero.

“It was recommended that the most prudent way forward is to keep wearing face masks for now,” Concepcion said.

He said it was agreed during the meeting that the country has managed to keep critical indicators low due to Filipinos wearing face masks.

Rye shared a survey conducted by OCTA Research last April showing the majority of Filipinos will opt to continue wearing face masks even after the end of the pandemic has been declared.

“There is no demand for unmasking,” he said.

While Concepcion and the group share the view masks have to be kept on for now, they believe it should continue to be revisited as the situation changes.

There are at the same time questions on its effect on children, and may send mixed signals about the end of the pandemic.

In terms of deciding alert levels, Concepcion and ACE believe hospitalization rates should be used as the primary criteria, being a more accurate gauge than the number of infections, and taking into consideration the effect of mobility restrictions on the economy.

On COVID-19 vaccines, discussions covered the need for these to be made commercially available in the country through the application for Certificates of Product Registration by pharmaceutical companies.

During the discussions, the general opinion was that the government must eventually shift the responsibility to pharmaceutical companies, and there should be a deadline for them, preferably within the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

“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.

After more than two years of being under a pandemic, he said it is time to set a clear path on how to transition to normalcy.

He added the government can count on private sector support on this task.

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