President Rodrigo Duterte says he wants to reopen the Philippine economy in the coming weeks, calling for a quick vaccination of millions of Filipinos.
"I have to reopen the economy. I have given a timetable of just weeks. The economy must be opened in a short while," Duterte said.
Duterte said the economy would reopen if the Philippines can inoculate 70 million of its 108 million population to achieve herd immunity.
However, Senator Panfilo Lacson expressed skepticism over the pace of vaccinations, saying it will take about 12 years to achieve herd immunity at the rate things are going. Lacson urged the government to speed up its inoculation program.
"If we don’t accelerate the pace, and assuming that all supply expected for 70 million targeted population to achieve herd immunity, then we’ll have a problem because it will take us until 2033 at the rate we’re doing it now. It will take us 11 years and eight months to finish assuming that all 140 plus million doses will arrive," Lacson said.
Herd immunity is achieved when a large part of the population is immune to a specific disease.
On March 1, the Philippines started its vaccination program with 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine donated by China.
The Philippine was among the fastest growing economies in Asia before the COVID-19 pandemic. Its momentum was broken after strict lockdown rules saw consumer confidence tumble and millions forced into unemployment.
The Philippines has the second-worst outbreak and death toll in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines reported the highest daily rise in COVID-19 cases in six months for successive days last week. Concerns with recent spike in infections prompted Metro Manila mayors to reimpose curfew in the capital region from March 15 for two weeks.