THE ECONOMY will return to pre-pandemic levels by the second half, assuming no return to the stricter quarantine settings, a Palace adviser said.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. A. Concepcion III said the 8.3% increase in gross domestic product in the first quarter can be taken as heralding a broader recovery.

“We are moving forward. Consumer spending is up despite inflation. This return to robust economic growth can be sustained if the incoming administration focuses its efforts on the country’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs),” Mr. Concepcion said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Metro Manila is currently under Alert Level 1, the most permissive setting in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) quarantine system, until May 31.

Mr. Concepcion said the growth trajectory is not expected to be hampered by a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“I’m not so worried at this point because we still have lots of vaccines; we just need to implement and boost more. Filipinos’ high compliance with wearing face masks, probably contributed to maintaining low-risk levels,” Mr. Concepcion said.

Mr. Concepcion said the wearing of masks will remain even with a decline in coronavirus case counts.

“I believe masking will have to stay for some time until the virus simmers down and disappears. It will be important for our exit strategy. With the elections concluded, local governments can return their focus on vaccinations, especially now that the challenge is convincing Filipinos to take their booster shots,” Mr. Concepcion said.

“That’s why we’re intensifying our Booster to the Max campaign, and reminding people that the freedoms we enjoy today are because of vaccinations,” he added.

Mr. Concepcion also pressed the Health Technology Assessment Council to adopt guidelines by the US Centers for Disease Control which recommends second boosters for those 50 years and older.

“We have so many vaccines in stock and they will just go to waste if we don’t remove the barriers. Most of those in the 50 years and older category are our economic frontliners, and although infections may be muted for now, we have to protect them from infections and from the threat of long COVID,” Mr. Concepcion said.

“Long COVID presents prolonged symptoms like headaches, shortness of breath and joint pains among patients who contracted the virus. Experts say that long COVID is a threat to productivity and may decrease quality of life for those who suffer from it,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave