THE government’s response to the pandemic may be “too vaccine-centric” and should be replaced with a more holistic approach, including serious focus on mass testing and supporting therapeutics, according to a former head of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

In an e-mail, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo L. Neri told BusinessMirror that the concerns raised by Neda Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua on the impact of the pandemic on the economy in the next 40 years are valid.

These concerns should be met with a more holistic approach and be treated as an opportunity to build new foundations for the Philippine economy.

“Our approach is too vaccine-centric which, while useful, cannot be the main measure, as seen in the high infection rates in US and Israel, even much higher infection rates per million population than the Philippines,” Neri said.

“We should see this crisis as an opportunity to reform our economy and society to make it more socially and environmentally responsible as advocated by the World Economic Forum [WEF] in their Great Reset advocacy,” he added.

Neri said a holistic approach to manage the crisis is to include quick and low-cost mass testing in the country as well as the endorsement of therapeutics.

These therapeutics, he said, include the use of Ivermectin, VCO (virgin coconut oil), and other nasal sprays to help control infections and transmission, among others.

Neri said Chua’s recent estimates should prompt top officials in the government to consider the damage that lockdowns have inflicted on the economy.

Last week, Chua estimated that the lockdowns and the pandemic will cost the country some P41 trillion in the next 40 years. (See story:

He said ad hoc solutions and gradual measures are not enough to address the concerns raised by Chua. He said new foundations such as harnessing the fourth industrial revolution; developing sustainable business models; and redesigning skills and jobs for the digital era are crucial.

He cited a need to strengthen and fund sustainable development at the regional level; revitalize global cooperation and multilateralism; restore environment health and minimize environmental degradation; and give shape to a green economic recovery are also key to the “Great Reset.”

“We talk about performing a reset when a system can no longer operate under its current parameters and needs to be restarted. This crisis caused by Covid-19 has exposed some systemic flaws, highlighting the need to reset the global economy and its models,” Neri said.

“Nations such as Japan and Germany and including the Philippines, have managed to recover from even more severe crises and catastrophes, such as the World War II, etc. where massive physical destruction, economic damage, financial and fiscal costs, and human fatalities occurred,” he also said.

3 key strategies

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Chua said accelerating the vaccination rollout, managing risks better, and implementing the economic recovery program are the government’s three key strategies to reach the country’s growth targets for 2021 and 2022.

Chua added that while prospects for the country’s economic recovery remain promising, its sustainability depends on the actions we take in dealing with the virus.

He noted that including minors in the vaccination drive could be the most important thing that can be done once the country receives additional vaccine supplies.

To date, Chua said, the government’s vaccination drive has peaked at half a million per day. This, he said, is an encouraging development given that vaccination is an important driver for the country’s recovery.

The second strategy that Chua mentioned is better risk management and the safe reopening of the economy. This involves lowering the age restrictions for those allowed to go out to enable more family activities, allowing limited face-to-face schooling in low-risk areas, and imposing granular lockdowns in areas with higher risk.

The final strategy is implementing the economic recovery program. This includes the timely use of the 2021 budget by reprioritizing it to address the gaps in education, health, and human capital development.

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