MANILA — In a televised high-level virtual meeting with President Duterte on July 24, Go Negosyo founder and presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion proposed restricting the movement of unvaccinated individuals by not allowing them entry to certain establishments in a bid to safely re-open the economy and to stop the spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant. 

Concepcion cited what is being implemented in France “on the premise that unvaccinated individuals pose a risk to public health.”

In a report by The Philippine Star’s ONE News PH, Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases chairman, Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Francisco Duque III, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos, various medical experts and key private sector leaders were also present in the virtual meeting where Concepcion noted that “such bold moves are necessary for government to exert pressure on individuals who refuse to be vaccinated amid the threat of the Delta variant, which experts said could be five to eight times more contagious than the original COVID-19 infection.”

Concepcion also suggested incentives for businesses aiming to fully vaccinate their employees through increased operational capacity to recoup losses from the pandemic’s impact while vaccinated individuals should be incentivized by allowing greater mobility or travel including the removal of the testing requirement

“If the coming fourth quarter will be a disaster because of the Delta variant, then the entire 2022 will face a severe challenge,” he added.

Meanwhile, the DOH on July 25, reported the detection of 55 new Delta variant cases.

Of the 55, 37 are local cases from Calabarzon (14), Northern Mindanao (8), National Capital Region (6), Central Luzon (6), Davao region (2) and Ilocos (1), 17 are returning overseas Filipinos while one case is under verification. 

On July 23, the DOH declared a local transmission of COVID-19’s Delta variant following the detection of 23 local cases after “phylogenetic analysis” conducted by the University of the Philippines and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), and the case investigation by the DOH Epidemiology Bureau and the regional and local epidemiology and surveillance units.

“In local transmission, you are still seeing the relationship of different cases among each other.  When there is community transmission, there are many cases and you do not see the linkage anymore,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

PH’s low vaccination rates and hesitancy

In a report by RapplerSt Luke’s College of Medicine’s Dr. Renzo Guinto cited delayed procurement and slow roll-out of vaccines and not vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos as the main causes of the current low vaccination rate. 

During Rappler’s pre-SONA panel on July 26, Guinto said the highly transmissible Delta variant has changed the attitude of Filipinos toward vaccines as they are now lining up to get inoculated. 

“Painting the Filipino public as vaccine-hesitant, I think we need to really correct that. There might be some vaccine hesitancy happening but I don’t think it’s a major driver of the slow vaccination pace that we have in the country,” Guinto said. 

 “​​It’s not enough that we purchase the vaccines, it’s equally important to know how to deliver it. Unfortunately, we’ve really not prepared our entire health system, from national to local, to make sure that these vaccines reach the Filipino people,” he added.

Guinto’s statements have been backed by former government coronavirus task force adviser Tony Leachon as he also pointed to the failure by the Duterte administration to secure vaccines early. 

As of July 26, the Philippines has 1,555,396 total COVID-19 cases after logging 6,664 new infections.