DEPENDING on who you talk to, some people will say that our government is doing a great job in handling this pandemic while others will say that it has been a total disaster. I guess it is a matter of perspective.
Looking at the Covid death statistics from the Johns Hopkins University as of August 15, 2021, the Philippines seems to be doing quite well with 27.81 deaths per 100,000 population.
In comparison, highly developed countries such as the United Kingdom is at 196.32, the United States is at 189.26, Germany is at 110.51, Canada is at 70.92 and, even within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Indonesia is at 43.00 and Malaysia is at 38.27. In short, about 100 countries did worse than us in Covid percentage deaths.
However, while we did well in terms of preventing more deaths from Covid, how well did we do in other critical aspects such as the economy? From a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6.12 percent in 2019, this became negative 9.6 percent in 2020 and a negative 1.3 percent for the second quarter of 2021. Another real-world measure of how a government is doing is by the unemployment statistics.
The Philippine unemployment rate was at 5.1 percent in April 2019 and a year later, in 2020, this was at 17.6 percent and by April 2021, our unemployment rate was at 8.7 percent. How does this compare to the other Asean countries? The two countries that fared worse than us in Covid deaths, did better when it comes to unemployment. Indonesia’s unemployment rate pre-Covid in 2019 was at 4.69 percent and increased to 7.1 percent by the third quarter of 2020. Malaysia’s unemployment rate was 3.32 percent in 2019 and grew to 4.6 percent in September of 2020.
Thailand, which had fewer Covid deaths had an unemployment rate of 0.75 percent in 2019 and slipped to 1.9 percent by August, 2020 while Vietnam was at 2.01 percent pre-Covid in 2019, had an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent by the second quarter of 2020.I could not help notice that the Philippines had the highest jump in unemployment rate and the worst GDP growth rate during this pandemic amongst our Asean peer group.
Perhaps it is about time to revisit our approach to controlling this pandemic while sacrificing our economy. A review should be made in the effectiveness of quarantine restrictions in really controlling COVID. Other countries are willing to sacrifice a higher infection and death rate in order to open up their economy. Does this strategy make sense? When people have no money, they lack the financial resources to have a nutritional diet, maintain sanitary standards and access to medical care, making them more prone to sickness and infections. Maybe it does make sense to open up the economy to battle Covid.
So far, based on the figures from the Department of Health, there have been a total of 30,340 deaths from Covid, compared to the 614,100 total deaths for the whole of 2020 and 170,467 deaths in the first quarter of 2021. We should not turn a blind eye to the other causes of death that may be aggravated by poverty and lack of medical attention because of the quarantine restrictions and all funding being diverted to address Covid.
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