Poor have 'better immunity’ vs coronavirus – Duterte adviser

MANILA, Philippines – One of President Rodrigo Duterte’s advisers proposed the resumption of construction work to revive the economy despite health risks amid the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the poor have “better immunity” than “sheltered” people.

During the online forum by the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines on Wednesday, April 29, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion proposed that Filipinos should learn how to exist with the novel coronavirus, as there would likely be no cure soon.

Moreover, Concepcion noted that he was able to talk to some 80 priests and bishops last Sunday, in which they were allegedly unanimous in saying that infection is “very minimal” in poor communities.

“Maybe because they are so used to so much exposure that they have a better immunity than us, who are sheltered in a well-protected environment,” Concepcion said, without citing scientific proof.

“When we talked to the proponents of Caritas project, which involved about 30 business organizations led by the Zobel brothers, the same thing was relayed to them, that many of the poor are somehow resilient to the virus,” he added.

His statements drew flak online. Rappler has sought Concepcion for comments regarding his remarks, but he has yet to respond as of writing.

Concepcion is among Duterte's advisers who have been vocal in reopening the economy, as the government braces for a recession.

He earlier proposed a modified, barangay-level lockdown. He also wanted to allow some forms of public transportation to operate again for employees returning to work.

“Life should go on because the virus will be there until there is a cure. We have to find a method that will work and this is worth thinking about,” Concepcion previously told Rappler.

Isolate and test

Concepcion said lockdowns isolate both healthy and sick individuals and negatively impact businesses.

To strike the balance between public health and the economic interests, mass testing should be done.

Concepcion leads the private sector's Project Antibody Rapid test Kit (ARK) initiative, where around 100 companies are set to screen workers for COVID-19. (READ: Razon's ICTSI, Solaire start coronavirus mass testing for employees)

Currently, the ARK initiative is close to getting 1 million test kits and will be deployed in May.

While he advocates for mass testing, he also noted the hefty costs of test kits.

To successfully deal with the virus, Concepcion said containment at the barangay level should be done. Otherwise, the government or private sector will continuously shell out cash for test kits. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.