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Presidential adviser Concepcion, biz leaders back 2-week ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and some business leaders are backing the two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown in the National Capital Region (NCR) proposed by OCTA Research group.

At the virtual Kamuning Bakery Cafe’s Pandesal Forum on Wednesday, Concepcion said that with the threat of the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant, “it’s very clear that we have to act soon.”

“We should expect that this lockdown is really happening and get it to happen in a month which is the weakest, August,” the presidential adviser said, noting that this season of monsoon rains is an opportunity to implement a stricter lockdown.

The OCTA Research group on Tuesday recommended a two-week lockdown in the NCR as the region recorded an average of almost 1,000 cases daily amid the threat of the more infectious Delta variant. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday agreed with OCTA Research's recommendation to implement "circuit breakers" amid the local transmission of the Delta variant.

With this, Concepcion said implementing a stricter lockdown should happen "very soon," noting that the damage to the economy “will be very big and it will delay many things" if it will be done during the consumption-heavy "ber" months or Christmas season.

“It is the most important quarter of the year. This is where consumers spend Christmas. Election spending will also come. Most businesses who lost their income from the previous months will be able to recover,” the presidential adviser said.

For his part, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman George Barcelon agreed that a two-week lockdown should be implemented but the business sector should be given enough time to prepare.

“We don’t want it to be so sudden that everybody is caught flat-footed. It’s important that a preparation period be allowed for the business sector,” Barcelon said.

The PCCI chairman also said that the lockdown should be done in the second to third week of August, in time with the “Ghost Month” which is traditionally believed to be a challenging season for businesses.

Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) president Henry Lim Bon Liong said, “We agree that we have to do the lockdown.”

“‘Ber’ months will be more optimistic if we sacrifice two weeks of August,” Bon Liong said.

“This is the right time if we are to lockdown now. It is the right time,” Concepcion said.

“We prefer that we solve the problem early and not wait for the problem to get bigger, because then we will have a lockdown for months. That is the most catastrophic thing in our country if that happens in the fourth quarter,” he added.

OCTA fellow Professor Ranjit Rye said they would leave it up to the government to decide what kind of circuit breaking measures to put in place but underscored that the status quo “will not be enough.” 

Metro Manila is under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions until July 31. 

Secretary Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the government’s pandemic response, said authorities are open to OCTA’s recommendations but added that they will seek a “balanced solution” to the threat of the Delta variant.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 1,562,420 on Tuesday with 7,186 new infections, the highest daily infection recorded since June 13.

The Department of Health also announced that total recoveries climbed to 1,478,625 after 5,672 more patients recovered from the illness while 72 new fatalities brought the death toll to 27,318. —KG/RSJ, GMA News