Being Right

Perhaps the summer heat is beginning to fry people’s brains. Take a family living in the same house. They drive to a restaurant using the same car. Yet when they arrive are made to sit in different tables.

How could this possibly be backed by science?

The restaurant owners are not to be blamed. They’re acting under penalty of government closure. And yet, for a country heavily reliant on the service industry and supposedly encouraging entrepreneurs, the unnecessarily heavy regulations being placed on our businesses is nothing short of insane.

This amidst an economy facing a possible 2nd quarter GDP shrinkage by 5.7-6.7%. BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno was quoted as saying the “negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis is harsher than what was originally thought.”

He’s wrong. COVID-19 didn’t wreck our economy. The government imposed lockdown did.

A lockdown, by the way, whose legal basis no one seems to know (“What is the legal basis of the lockdown?,” July 3).

To date, we’re in the 117th day of “quarantine” (ironically, a term that before this year always referred to isolating the sick and never the healthy). It’s said to be the world’s longest. But to what end and purpose?

To flatten the mythical curve? Prevent our hospitals being overwhelmed? To wait until a vaccine arrives? Until there are no more deaths? Such ambiguous, purely subjective reasons, are simply unhelpful and utterly non-conforming to reality.

Lockdowns don’t work. It’s a placebo that at best delays what needs to be confronted with better governance policies. Even the much admired UP Study (“COVID-19 Forecasts in the Philippines,” May 20) shows that coronavirus cases and deaths were still increasing in the National Capital Region even with an ECQ maintained.

Ignore total positive cases that the media loves to trumpet. The important number is with deaths.

The week June 29 — July 5, for example, saw 42 supposedly coronavirus deaths. Much maligned Cebu City actually had three days (July 1-3) of no recorded deaths. Compare that with our 12,000 total weekly deaths from all causes nationally.

But that’s not all: July 5 data reveals 99.4% of our active cases are either asymptomatic or mild. In the unfortunate circumstance a person is among that small 0.6% of severe or critical coronavirus cases, the likelihood of dying is just 4%.

Recoveries rose by 92% (489) and daily deaths fell by 86% from April 12 to July 5. Our death rate steadily lowers to 2.8%, a drop of nearly 60% from March-April. Our hospital COVID-19 designated beds and ICU occupancy rates maintain a stable 40-42%.

What is the point of all this? The point is that people will always be faced with risks, that risks are ever constant, that the point of growing up and adulthood is being able to make the proper calculations and the use of judgment in deciding how to confront those ever present risks.

And right now, apparently our government’s judgment in the face of all those facts is to lock people up in their own homes and make inconsistent unnecessary rules, such as allowing only 50% seating for hotels and restaurants while imposing a 10% attendance limit for Catholic Masses.

Even dolphins show greater common sense than this.

And now, after months of being continually terrified about the coronavirus (stoked by a fear mongering media), the government suddenly tells the people (through the presidential spokesman) that: “We don’t have an alternative but to really open the economy. If we do not reopen, we may be alive but we will die because we do not have livelihoods.”

But that was true four months ago. So why not then?

What exacerbated this situation was the conduct of a national pandemic discussion based not only on hypothetical models but — worse — meme logic.

An example of which goes like this: “Stay home. The virus does not discriminate.” But it does.

And the fact that our policymakers refuse to recognize this had devastating consequences not only for our economy but also for our youth’s education.

The coronavirus reserves its serious attacks on the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. And our own data bears this out: June 30 reports that while cases are spread out across the ages, nevertheless, 64.5% of all deaths were from those of 60 years old and up; 62% of the deaths were males, with most over 70 years of age.

For those 29 years old and below? Out of the 1,266 deaths, 59 died. And even with the latter, note the Italian national health authority’s findings that more than 99% of those who died from the coronavirus were suffering from previous medical conditions.

And yet our demographic (53% of our population being 0-24 years old, 0-54 is 90%; with a median age of 23.7) could have allowed our economy to keep functioning while allowing our medical resources to focus on that identifiable vulnerable group.

As well as keep our schools open.

But no. For who knows what reason.


Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.

Twitter @jemygatdula