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Trade chief Lopez insists reopening economy didn't lead to COVID-19 surge, blames low compliance

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Wednesday insisted that the reopening of the economy did not lead to the fresh surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

In a briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte, Lopez said when the economy reopened in July last year, COVID-19 cases went down from 4,000 daily to below 2,000 per day in February 2021, which is why there is no link between economy reopening and the rise in COVID-19 infections.

Citing a statement from World Health Organization (WHO) country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, Lopez said the surge may have been caused by “vaccine optimism” and the public’s low compliance to health protocols.

“As the economy started to reopen in July last year, ‘yong COVID cases po bumababa. So contrary po sa kinakatakutan ng marami na ‘pag nag-reopen ang economy, aakyat ang cases, pero po ito po statistics po ito at talagang nangyari sa atin na habang nagbukas tayo last July at further  reopening noong August… COVID cases started to go down until February,” Lopez said.

(As the economy started to reopen in July last year, COVID-19 cases went down. So contrary to other people's fears that the number of cases will increase when the economy reopens, but this are the statistics and this really happened last July and at the further reopening last August, cases started to go down until February.)

“Ang balita po, ang opinyon from WHO sabi na po mismo ng representative ng WHO dito na si Dr. Rabindra is (the surge in cases is) due to vaccine optimism…. Siguro kasama na rin po ‘yong matagal nilang pagka-lockdown at napansin ho natin ito dahil dumadalas na ho ang mga nagkikita-kita… Kaya po diyan sa mga gathering na ‘yan at komunidad na medyo low compliance, ‘yan po ang nagiging sanhi ng new cases,” he added.

(The opinion of WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra is that the surge in cases is due to vaccine optimism. Maybe this also includes lockdown fatigue and more people see each other often. And these gatherings and the community with low compliance to health protocols are the reasons behind the new cases.)

On Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the easing of coronavirus restrictions to kickstart the economy led to the exponential increase in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past several days.

Duque also cited what he called many Filipinos' token compliance with the mandatory use of face masks and face shields and the presence of new COVID-19 variants—supposedly more transmissible—in the country.

Due to the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in the country, the government placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal or the “National Capital Region Plus” under a stricter general community quarantine bubble for two weeks to curb the spread of the disease.

The NCR Plus bubble — which prevents those residing in NCR and nearby provinces from going beyond the borders of the said bubble amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases unless it is for essential travel — will be  in effect from March 22 to April 4.

The country has so far recorded a total of 684,311 cases of COVID-19 including 91,754 active cases, 579,518 recoveries and 13,039 deaths. -- BAP, GMA News