Following the spike in COVID-19 cases, economic think tank Action for Economic Reforms (AER) urged the government to impose stricter quarantine measures in Metro Manila and adopt several policy recommendations, including centralizing contact tracing, putting in place an efficient referral system, adopting aggressive fiscal policy, and providing social amelioration.

“The loosening of quarantine restrictions and opening of the economy failed because the government has not put in place the minimum necessary measures to safeguard people’s health and well-being,” AER Coordinator Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III said in a statement on Monday.

Warning that the spike will make it harder to implement an efficient and effective vaccination strategy, Sta. Ana said that the current situation compels the government to implement stricter quarantine measures. He emphasized that even countries successful in flattening the curve, such as New Zealand, do not hesitate to adopt a lockdown when faced with spikes in cases.

“The primary objective is health. Health constrains further economic reopening. Lessons abroad show that it is countries that have contained the virus that have been able to facilitate economic recovery,” Sta. Ana added.

Dr. Eddie Dorotan, convenor of the COVID-19 Action Network, emphasized the need to adopt the “hammer and dance” strategy to suppress the virus. The hammer phase entails strict lockdowns when cases rise and the health system is overwhelmed, while the dance is gradually reopening the economy after cases decrease. “But all should dance in cadence and in tune. Hindi puwedeng kanya kanya na walang lead dancer,” Dr. Dorotan said.

Sta. Ana also urged the government to consolidate contact tracing among LGUs to ensure inter- operability of applications; establish an efficient referral system for patients, given the dysfunctionality of the One Hospital Command; and ensure the compliance of government agencies and private firms with minimum health protocols such as proper ventilation.

“Aggressive fiscal policy needs to be adopted to ensure financing to flatten the curve and to provide social amelioration. Given the structural reforms already in place, we have the capacity to repay the heavy borrowing,” Sta. Ana said.

Finally, Sta. Ana called on the government to hold leaders accountable for their actions. “We should not tolerate hubris as manifested by the presidential spokesman’s chest thumping. That is, boasting that government performance is ‘excellent.’ We should not tolerate the systematic policy of violence. How ironic it is that the government professes to save lives from the virus yet condones people being killed with impunity,” Sta. Ana added.