Concepcion, expert panel propose: ‘Keep face masks, set vaccine deadlines’ – Manila Bulletin

Economic and health experts agreed that the country should keep its face mask requirement, use hospital utilization rates for determining alert levels, and set a vaccine deadline to prevent the number of Covid-19 cases in the country from spiking.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion speaks during the Laging Handa public briefing on Monday, May 23. (Screenshot from PCOO Facebook page)

This was the consensus reached during the meeting when Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion convened the Advisory Council of Experts (ACE). This advisory group comprises some of the country’s foremost authorities on medicine, public health, economics, and research and data analytics.

In a statement, the Go Negosyo founder said that while the threat of Covid-19 is still present, the more urgent problem that the country faces is on the economic front.

“We need to find ways so that we save our livelihoods without unnecessarily losing our hard-won victories against the virus,” he said during the group’s meeting on June 24.

In this task, he said, the government can rely on the support of the private sector.

The group acknowledged the varying opinions on whether it is time for the country to relax face mask mandates, especially in outdoor settings. Still, the members agreed that “the most prudent way forward is to keep wearing face masks for now.”

Concepcion said the country has managed to keep critical indicators low because Filipinos generally do not disagree with wearing face masks. OCTA Research fellow Prof. Ranjit Rye shared that their survey conducted last April showed that the majority of Filipinos will still choose to wear face masks even after the end of the pandemic has been declared.

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

They likewise ensured that they would continue revisiting the issue of removing face mask requirements following questions about its effect on children and how it sends mixed signals about the end of the pandemic.

On the issue of vaccines, Concepcion said the general opinion of the group was that the government must at some point shift the responsibility of making vaccines commercially available to pharmaceutical companies. They agreed that there should be a deadline for them to do so, preferably within the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

Meanwhile, they said that hospitalization rates should be the primary criteria for alert levels as it is deemed a more accurate gauge than the number of infections and consider 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 experts include National Task Force Against Covid-19 Special Adviser Dr. Ted 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, and health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon.

OCTA Research fellows Dr. Michael Tee, Prof. Ranjit Rye, Dr. Guido David, and Fr. Nicanor Austriaco are also members of the advisory group, as well as 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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