MANILA - Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion on Friday urged the government to grant "more mobility" to vaccinated individuals amid rising COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant.
In a virtual meeting with reporters, Concepcion said it's about time that all industries be allowed to operate while implementing a "vaccine bubble".
Several sectors have been urging the Philippine government to create vaccine bubbles or separate transportation, dining, and other outdoor systems for fully inoculated individuals.
"The bakuna bubble basically, you have the family bubble and the kabuhayan bubble, each one has a lead, so you lessen the risk, there would still be a risk but protocols will still be implemented," Concepcion explained.
"What we are asking is the vaccinated be granted more mobility, so we can have economic activity,” he added.
The proposal, he said, also includes requiring unvaccinated persons to present either a negative antigen or RT-PCR test before entering establishments that will be tagged as "high-risk" areas.
In Cebu City, gyms, spas, salons and restaurants were allowed open at a 10 percent capacity even amid the extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) — the second strictest lockdown level — according to Mayor Michael Rama.
The local government of Cebu is set to come up with guidelines next week to fully implement the so-called "bakuna bubble," finally allowing inoculated individuals to access services at spas, salons, gyms and restaurants.
“If others can replicate, why not? The number one challenge is how we address this thing about the Delta,” Rama told the media.
“I wanna be very frank, when is the right time?... I’m asking when is the right time, for as long as we are doing what we believe, the general welfare is the supreme law,” the official added.
Earlier this week, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said imposing the “bakuna bubbles” may face legal challenges due to possible discrimination.
The DOJ has also cited the equal protection clause and still limited supply of COVID-19 shots as reasons on why vaccine bubbles should not yet be implemented in the Philippines.
Concepcion said the country's current situation because of the pandemic is an emergency, citing the challenges that small business establishments are facing.
“In the case of Cebu their leadership moves very fast, here in Manila, you have the medical group as very influential, the outliers keep saying its discriminatory, it's frustrating, this is an emergency,” Concepcion said.
While no clear cut study or data is being cited yet by officials in terms of the effectivity of implementing the bubble, the presidential adviser still said the sweeping pronouncements and sudden shifts in quarantine status have caused business owners to suffer for the longest time.
“We cannot not try it, in fairness to Mayor Abalos they're looking to start it with the LGUs with the highest vaccination rate. What do we have to lose?" he said.
"Right now we are losing so much, we cannot kill COVID, you suppress it, it comes back you suppress it, it comes back, and you can’t keep doing that to our entrepreneurs,” he stressed.
Whether the local chief executives in Metro Manila will take the lead in the proposed vaccine bubble, Concepcion called on the Inter-Agency Task Force to create new guidelines and allow facilities such as gyms, spas and salons, restaurants to operate even under the current MECQ.
“The other sector is our tourism sector, I think if we accept the fact that business establishments will accept only vaccinated people, we should look at allowing the fully vaccinated people moving around the country," he said.
“You just cant stop it, let's accept it, it (COVID) will be over the Philippines, we have to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate, and will give them protection, we have to change our strategy, allow them movement."
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this week said vaccine bubbles would not work "at this point in time" as existing COVID-19 vaccines could not prevent breakthrough infections.
But National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said his task force is open to the proposed bubble in Metro Manila.
As of Wednesday, the government has been able to fully immunize 14.1 million people from the respiratory disease.
At least 20 million individuals, meanwhile, have received their first dose, data showed.