Life would not probably get back to normal for all until 2022 as COVID-19 vaccines may not be enough for all people to return to business as usual by next year, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.
While the economy is expected to somehow recover beginning next year, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua admitted that Filipinos’ return to their pre-coronavirus activities might take another year.
Chua explained that the people cannot go back to normal life without COVID-19 vaccine, which, based on estimates, may be widely available only by end of 2021.
“First is next year, we are still going to have a prolonged quarantine, and in fact the projection for next year assumes that we will have a modified GCQ [general community quarantine], or a relaxed version of that for the rest of the year,” Chua told reporters.
“Clearly we cannot go back to normal life without the vaccine,” the NEDA official pointed out.
The Duterte administration is currently in negotiations with foreign vaccine developers and pharmaceutical companies, and eyeing at least 14 specific brands for use in the Philippines.
Last week, the Philippines entered into a tripartite agreement with AstraZeneca for 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, just enough to inoculate some 1.5 million Filipinos.
The Wold Health Organization predicted that while COVID-19 vaccine would be approved by next year, it would likely be available in limited quantities and allotted only for health workers, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups.
Based on WHO estimates, the production of COVID-19 vaccines will increase and reach the goal of two billion only by the end of 2021.
“Because of the news that the vaccine will be available this year and widely available towards the end of next year, we will likely see a lifting of all the quarantines, fully, by 2022,” Chua said.
On Thursday, the Duterte administration’s economic managers conceded that the country’s economy would contract deeper than their initially estimate due to prolonged community quarantines.
The inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) adjusted its gross domestic product (GDP) assumption for this year to -8.5 percent to -9.5 percent, worse than its earlier range of -4.5 percent to -6.6 percent set last July.
Despite deeper economic woes, the DBCC sees the local economy would “bounce back” in 2021, growing by about 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent.
Chua said the expected positive growth in 2021 is mainly due to low base effects after the local economy endured the worst economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
By 2022, the DBCC forecasted that the economy would expand at a much faster pace of 8.0 percent to 10 percent.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, the Duterte administration’s chief economic manager, said the projected robust expansion is anchored on expectations that all mobility restrictions will be removed by 2022.
“I would like to point out that the production capacity of the Philippines has not been damaged. What has limited us is the fear of yet the infection, but the factories are there, the call centers are there. These factors of production are not damaged,” Dominguez said.
“If the economy is just waiting for this fear factor to be removed and more people will have confidence that they will not get sick, this economy, believe me, is going to boom,” he added.
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