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Difficulty in containing virus transmission to delay economic recovery

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Vaccination hesitancy among Filipinos and other challenges could prevent the country from containing virus transmission that will likely delay economic recovery.

At the virtual “The Health of Nations: The Economic Benefits of Universal Health Care in the Context of COVID-19”, Dr. Ronald Mendoza, Dean and Professor of Economics Ateneo School of Government note some challenges hounding the country’s efforts to achieve herd immunity and economic recovery.

According to Mendoza, the lockdown was not really effective in buying time to improve the country’s healthcare system, making it very costly to the economy and ineffective measure to contain the virus transmission.

Other countries though that implemented lockdowns were able to catch up to strengthen their systems. “It buys them time. And so it is important that you use that time to actually strengthen those systems so that you can shift to a more nuanced, more effective containment strategy that is not necessarily as expect as expensive as costly as a full mobility restriction a full lockdown.”

Since the government has been unable to graduate to a more efficient containment strategies, the economy sustained serious damage from being stuck with “on and off” lockdowns.

At the same time, the healthcare system is also facing a lot of stress.

In addition, Mendoza said there have been delays in the rollout of vaccination. This is also compounded by vaccine hesitancy to the extent that this may still be a challenge for some parts of the population. Attaining the herd immunity or 70 percent immunity of a population may not be the solution to contain the spread of virus given the high hesitancy among Filipinos to get inoculated.

“These are all likely to lead to delayed economic recovery so this is quite an unfortunate situation and clarifies the challenges that the Philippine needs to overcome,” he added.

As such, Mendoza stressed the need for a strong universal healthcare system. He cited evidence that countries with strong universal and highly adaptable healthcare systems, along with well coordinated economic and social protection strategies, tend to fare better.

“They don’t necessarily need to rely on draconian lockdown,” he said noting these countries are able to keep their economies operating and keep the virus at bay.

Mendoza cited the need to fix the PhilHealth and to control healthcare governance and costs as among the key areas for action.

“PhilHealth really needs to be fixed and lots of governance challenges facing PhilHealth,” he pointed out.

In the same event, Garry Walsh, author of the Health of Nations with long experience working in the global public policy arena, noted of the need of centralized healthcare system rather than the individual out of pocket expenses at present.

At present, the Philippines is the third highest in healthcare spending but this is mostly individual payment.

Since the country’s healthcare system is funded by people’s taxes, it also requires good governance, transparency and accountability. But, he also noted that a centralized universal healthcare system is much more efficient and cheaper because of the greater role of transparency and the economies of scale should bring down overall cost of healthcare.

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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