MORE SECTORS REOPEN: Vaccines inject economic optimism

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    BY IRMA ISIP AND ANGELA CELIS

    Economic managers have expressed hope the economy could recover much faster now that the government has started rolling out COVID-19 vaccines.

    Carlos Dominguez, Department of Finance secretary, said he expects further easing of lockdown measures.

    Asked if a shift to MGCQ or a further reopening of the economy will be more likely by April, Dominguez said: “I believe so.”

    On February 28, the date of the arrival of the first batch of Sinovac vaccines from China, Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry issued a memorandum circular (MC) that would reopen previously restricted industries, including cinemas and social events, in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).

    Lopez told reporters it is possible for the economy to bounce back ahead of the 2023 projection given by President Duterte to return to pre-pandemic levels.

    The vaccine as well as the reopening of more sectors coupled with other economic reforms and programs will help achieve this, he said.

    “We will do our best,” Lopez said in a text message.

    MC No. 21-08 s. 2021 recategorizes restricted industries of certain business activities from Category IV to Category III, which gradually reopens the operations of driving schools, traditional cinemas, museums, and tourist attractions, among others, under the GCQ, pursuant to the earlier approval granted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

    Libraries, museums, cultural centers, meetings and conventions and limited tourist attractions and video games arcades are allowed to operate at a maximum of 50 percent under GCQ and 75 percent under modified GCQ (MGCQ).

    Traditional cinemas are allowed to operate only at a maximum of 25 percent in GCQ and 50 percent in MGCQ areas, subject to additional implementing guidelines from the Department of Health and the LGUs.

    Limited social events will be restricted to 30 percent in GCQ and 50 percent in MGCQ areas.

    The MC also states that the expansion of the aforementioned business establishments or activities under Category IV in GCQ and MGCQ areas are subject to compliance with the minimum public health and safety standards and protocols and relevant issuances.

    The MC will take effect on March 5, 2021 upon its publication and filing with the University of the Philippines Law Center.

    Lopez also said the standard requirements set by LGUs will increase mobility of authorized persons outside their homes.

    “These are some of the ways to open the economy without shifting to MGCQ. We’ve been opening gradually but we are not loosening the basic health protocols,” said Lopez, referring to the wearing of face masks, and face shields, physical distancing and avoiding crowds.

    Lopez and the rest of the economic team have pushed for the shift to MGCQ by March but this was rejected by President Duterte until vaccines are available.

    Dominguez for his part said national and local governments are working together with the private sector to assure that all adults are inoculated as soon as possible.

    The economic managers estimate about P700 million is lost each day of GCQ and reopening will allow for the restoration of some 1.6 million jobs.