THE IMPLEMENTATION of looser quarantine protocols in Metro Manila is not necessary in consideration of the threat of the more transmissible Omicron variant, according to Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” A. Concepcion III. 

Mr. Concepcion said during a Palace briefing on Wednesday that the National Capital Region (NCR), which accounts for about 32% of the country’s economic output, should remain under Alert Level 2 rather than easing to Alert Level 1.  

“Do we move (NCR from) Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1? My suggestion is no. Let’s stay where we are because everybody during the last quarter, this Christmas season, did extremely well,” Mr. Concepcion said.

The Philippines had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world that took a heavy toll on its economy.  

Mr. Concepcion said there is no need to lower NCR’s classification as there will be lesser people movement in the beginning of 2022 after the holiday season celebrations and spending. 

“I think we need to be conservative. We are seeing that Omicron is really coming in, slowly. But I see that the business sector is best prepared, moving to Alert Level 1 does not really help because in the first quarter (of 2022), our sales will go down,” Mr. Concepcion said. 

Further, Mr. Concepcion said he remains optimistic that 2022 will be a “much better” year for the country. 

“We are much more prepared. We have vaccines, we have the whole structure, (and) we know what to do. The private sector and government are working together. Let’s just continue and accelerate vaccination,” Mr. Concepcion said.

“We have to put pressure on our local government units to push harder. Not only the vaccines but even the booster shots. That is the best way to prepare,” he added.

The business leader said the government is looking to purchase booster doses every three months beginning 2022 to combat new coronavirus variants.

As health authorities have shortened the interval between top-up shots to three months, he said the government expects the private sector to return and provide assistance in purchasing booster doses quarterly.

“I think every three months we will have booster shots, so that will be about three to four vaccines to be given annually,” Mr. Concepcion said. 

The private sector is already preparing for the next order of AstraZeneca in the second semester of 2022, he added. “All of that is already being prepared… because that is the weapon that we will use against (the COVID-19), even Omicron.”

The Philippines on Tuesday took delivery of more than two million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca Plc., which will be used mostly as booster shots, he said.

About 202 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been delivered to the country as of Dec. 27, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said in an earlier interview. About five million more doses are expected to arrive before yearend. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan