Some business owners eye separate spaces for vaccinated, unvaccinated workers and guests

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Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 10) — Some business executives said they are exploring the idea of segregating vaccinated employees and guests from those who refuse to receive the shots, as COVID-19 vaccinations pick up.

"If there are some employees who have not taken the vaccine or don't want to take the vaccine, we may have to isolate them in another section. They are still going to be our employees, but we will have to find a way to protect them from possibly infecting those who have been vaccinated. This is something that we are looking into," Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion told CNN Philippines on Thursday.

He said among the possible areas of separation are elevators, offices, fine dining restaurants, cinemas, gyms, and other enclosed spaces where ventilation is poor. He clarified this will not apply in areas with quick turnovers like fast food branches and malls with high ceilings.

"Until everybody takes the vaccine, not everybody will be safe - that's the principle that we are looking into," Concepcion added. "Between the vaccine and wearing a face mask, which is more protective against infection? Very clearly the vaccine, right?"

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Building owners might also consider denying entry to the unvaccinated, in the same way that families or groups of friends could refuse to meet people who are not protected from the coronavirus.

The business leader said this segregation may be considered once the country is able to administer doses to 40-50% of the adult population.

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Companies are currently discussing the proposal with health experts — although this early, there is resistance.

"Segregation, in my view, may raise ethical and legal issues that need serious and careful deliberation," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra added, but said it may be premature to comment as the formal proposal has not yet reached the Inter-Agency Task Force.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also said the proposal raises ethical and discrimination issues.

"There is no real science when we talk about these things. It's more of an ethical issue and discrimination issue," Vergeire told CNN Philippines' News Night.

"Maybe that should be discussed also further with the other agencies, and also with the Department of Justice, if we are going to have this kind of implementation, and if there would be some legal or ethical issues concerning this matter," she added.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, meanwhile, said establishments cannot discriminate and impose a no vaccine, no entry policy.

Currently, vaccination against COVID-19 is not mandatory for Filipinos. The vaccines reduce the risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms that require hospitalization.

"Alam naman nating marami 'yung vaccine hesitancy. 'Pag ginawa pa natin 'yan, masyadong discriminatory, baka 'yung mga Pinoy... 'yung isip nila mas maging negatibo [We all know there's that vaccine hesitancy is rampant. If we do that, more Filipinos might have negative thoughts about the vaccines]," added George Barcelon, president emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Barcelon maintained that vaccination is a personal choice which must be respected. Instead, he called on business owners to offer COVID-19 shots within office premises to make it more convenient for people to get them, and possibly convince more workers to take the vaccines.

"Is it discriminatory? I believe it's not, it's what the owners want to do to protect other people from getting infected," Concepcion said.

Both Concepcion and Barcelon admitted it’s harder to hit herd immunity this year given the current pace of vaccinations, which they say is key to economic recovery.

The country has administered 6.1 million vaccine shots as of June 7, while only 1.6 million have received their second dose, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19.

READ: Gov't mulls over easing restrictions for Filipinos vaccinated vs. COVID-19