Economic adviser seeks full vaccination at some businesses

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A GOVERNMENT economic adviser on Monday cited the need to require workers in some businesses to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

These include workers at restaurants and spas, which only accept fully vaccinated customers, presidential adviser on entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion III told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

“Restricting the movement of the unvaccinated is protecting their own life,” he said.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines last month said some employers were withholding the salaries of workers who were not fully vaccinated, which is illegal.

The government allows restaurants and personal care businesses to operate at limited capacity as long as their workers have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Under the law, vaccination cards should not be required for education or employment.

Some congressmen have filed bills seeking to force Filipinos to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

More than 59 million coronavirus vaccines had been given out as of Oct. 31, with 27.36 million Filipinos having been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Mr. Concepcion said the lockdown in Metro Manila should be eased further to Alert Level 2 by Nov. 15 to allow small businesses to recover faster.

“There is no way but to move towards Alert Level 2,” he said. “It is very clear that the infection levels have gone down.”

The lockdown level in local governments with a vaccination rate of more than 70% should be eased further, he added.

Metro Manila is now under Alert Level 3, which allows 50% capacity for outdoor services and 30% capacity for indoor activities.

Mr. Concepcion said 40% of annual sales happen in the last quarter due to increased demand.

“This is the quarter when the Christmas season induces a lot of spending for gifts and greater mobility since people want to celebrate with loved ones,” he said.

He said there is no reason to panic in case of a fresh surge in infections, as long as more people have been fully vaccinated. “Even if infections go up, we must remember that vaccinations prevent hospitalization.”

He also said granular lockdowns should continue to speed up economic recovery. “Confidence is going to be very important, and for confidence to happen, we need to open the economy.”

The government started enforcing granular lockdowns with five alert levels in the capital region after the country struggled to contain a fresh spike in infections triggered by a highly contagious Delta variant.

Under Alert Level 2, businesses may operate indoors at 50% capacity. They will get an additional 10% capacity if they have a so-called safety seal from the government. For outdoor operations, they may operate at 70% capacity.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. also said an inter-agency task force had approved a plan to increase passenger capacity in road- and rail-based public transportation in Metro Manila and nearby provinces from 70% to full capacity starting Nov. 4.

The Department of Transportation on Friday said it would gradually increase the passenger capacity of public transportation in Metro Manila starting this week.

The agency cited greater demand for public transport after businesses were allowed to operate at increased capacity and as more Filipinos get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

It said it would issue guidelines on the gradual increase in passenger capacity while enforcing health and safety protocols to help contain the coronavirus. — Russell Louis C. Ku and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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