MANILA, Philippines — The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is urging a well-coordinated balance in government response to the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 crisis to prevent the public health emergency from becoming a political and social crisis.

The agency has proposed a three-phased program of interventions to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic that has so far claimed 33 lives in the country.

“This public health emergency brought about by COVID-19 shows us how crucial it is for us to have a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach in addressing this challenge,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

“The response measures should delicately balance the health and economic objectives, particularly as the impact varies by economic class. Otherwise, the situation could deteriorate to a social and political crisis.”

To mitigate the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NEDA has proposed a three-phased program of interventions: Phase 1a: Clinical / medical response; Phase 1b: Public health response; Phase 1c: Short-term augmentation of health systems capacity; Phase 2: Rebuild consumer and business confidence; and Phase 3: Resume a new normal state of economic activity that is more prepared for another possible pandemic.

Phase 1 focuses on public health measures meant to contain the spread and shorten the duration of the contagion. This includes early detection and diagnosis that will lead to early quarantine; eliciting response and cooperation from the public, and augmenting healthcare systems to respond to the surge in cases when the ECQ is lifted.

Pernia noted that the country is now implementing Phase 1b as seen in the enforcement of protective social distancing and rollout of social protection programs for those affected by work suspension.

Meanwhile, efforts to augment the capacity of health systems need to be accelerated to ensure that the country is equipped to handle a potential surge in the number of when the ECQ is lifted.

Under Phase 1c, the establishment of makeshift outpatient consultation facilities with specimen harvesting capability is needed, including the increase of supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and remote quarantine facilities (RQF).

“At this phase, it may be useful to engage a wider portion of the population in the supply of the essentials to fight COVID-19. Existing businesses may be encouraged to reconfigure their product offerings to include these essentials,” Pernia said.

Once the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is lifted, NEDA noted that economic activity will likely remain weak as the public becomes hesitant to engage.

During this time, the government must assure the public of the adequacy of the country’s improved health systems, which is under Phase 2 of the proposed program on interventions.

“To maintain appropriate protective distancing even beyond the ECQ, businesses may implement staggered working hours. Provision of emergency loans may also be resorted to address balance sheet problems of both the business sector and consumers,” Pernia said.

Redefining the new normal state of economic activity under Phase 3 includes recalibrating development plans and work programs to conform to present conditions.

NEDA noted that the COVID-19, at the onset, involves a class dimension as the upper and middle income classes are the ones directly infected, being the ones able to travel or are acquainted with ones who have travelled.

The lower classes are impacted because of the responses undertaken to curb the spread of the pandemic such as work suspensions and lockdowns.


By: Czeriza Valencia