The government is urged to review “leaky” international travel protocols, which have been blamed as the major cause in the entry of COVID-19 variants triggering dramatic surge in infection and disruption of the domestic economy, which the Duterte administration is trying to gradually reopen amid hunger and unemployment rate in the country. 

Octa Research fellow Dr. Guido David issued this call at the “Kamuning Pandesal” forum where he stressed that a travel ban will not work if the protocols are leaky. 

 “Our recommendation is to review the protocol for international travelers because our travel protocols are leaky,” he said stressing that international travelers are bringing in COVID variants into the country because the international travel protocols are leaky. “How can we restore the economy if these variants continue to come in?”

(Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)

According to David, the two-week international travelers’ ban would temporarily help prevent variants from coming in for two weeks, but the situation will return after that period. 

He said the travel ban is not the most important issue, but the “protocols and guidelines” for long term impact and to control the surge in transmission and slowdown the trend.

The UP Institute of Mathematics professor, whose research group projected the COVID cases in the country to peak at 8,000 daily by end this month, cited the effective 21-day mandatory quarantine protocols for international travelers in Vietnam and China.  

The least the government could do on international travelers is be strict in the implementation of health protocols like testing and quarantine.

Based on their data, every 2 of 100 people in the National Capital Region (NCR) now are infected although most are asymptomatic and mild cases.

Thus, he also suggested for a synchronized two-week lockdown for NCR and neighboring provinces or the CALABARZON  areas instead of granular lockdowns, which he said are not effective because attacks would likely return as nearby areas are not quarantined at  the same time. If  synchronized short-term lockdown will not work, he said there is a need to look for other solutions.

He commended the decision of the Metro Manila Mayors to impose a unified curfew time of 10 pm to 5 pm and the age restriction allowing only 18-65 years old to go out of their homes as good steps.

In the meantime, David also said that a conservative approach is to reduce mobility because that could help reduce cases and slowdown the trend.

Since Metro Manila has the highest number of cases, David also urged the government to prioritize vaccination in the national capital to have an immediate impact. 

He, however, said that although herd immunity can only be achieved if 50 or 70 percent of population have been vaccinated  he said that 30 percent would already help create a positive impact in controlling the spread of the virus in NCR.

Instead of distributing to other provinces, the scientist said government should concentrate in the NCR. Once NCR is healed, the whole nation is also healed because it is a trade center, all ports are here and everything goes through NCR.

“NCR cannot wait, we are having a surge.” 

Further, he called on Filipinos to impose “personal enhanced community quarantine” or “KKQ” (kanya Kanyang quarantine) or voluntary ECQ for two weeks or stay-in work arrangement to reduce mobility.

David explained that people can still support the economy even if they don’t go out. Their support could be through ordering food for delivery from restaurants and doing grocery online.

“There are ways to support the economy with this situation that we have now,” he said.

Source: Manila Bulletin (