Being Right

This is the 169th day of lockdown. News came a few days ago about an asteroid possibly on a collision course with our planet. Not that we should worry: being not too large, any impact will likely be inconsequential. Not that there’s much chance of a collision. The chances of that happening, according to the scientists, is 0.41%.

Which, incidentally, is higher than recent estimates of COVID-19’s IFR (infection fatality rate) of 0.1% to 0.2%, and — for those below 70 years of age — possibly 0.04%.

There are some interesting numbers, from Department of Health (DoH) sources as of Aug. 23, in the table that comes with this column.

Notable is the disparity between mild, severe or critical, and deaths between the 0-29 and 60 years and above age groups. What must be emphasized is that this isn’t new information. Medical experts from around the world have long observed COVID-19’s relatively minimal effect on the younger demographic, which happens to be the bulk of our population.

As of this writing, our CFR (case fatality rate) hovers around 1.56% (but incrementally — if minutely — lowering each day), while mortality vis-a-vis population is around 0.0027% or 2.78 per 100,000.

For context, in 2017, Philippine deaths from tuberculosis was at 25 per 100,000.

But there’s also something interesting: If one compares data within the age groups alone, then:

• the probability (as the DoH apparently dislikes it when non-medical professionals use the word “chance”) of an infected 0-29 year old having severe or critical reaction from COVID1-9 is 0.78%, the probability of dying 0.34%, and the probability of recovery is 99.66%;

• the probability of an infected 0-59 year old having severe or critical reaction from COVID-19 is 1.4%, dying 0.1%, and recovery is 99%; while

• the probability of an infected 60-year-old and above having a severe or critical reaction is 11%, dying 12%, and recovery is 88%.

Even more interesting, if one exclusively looks at the age group that comprises our main labor force, 20-59 years of age, the probability of dying is 1% and recovery is 99%. This is significant when read alongside the news that adult unemployment (according to a recent SWS survey) has risen to 45.5%.

Aug. 24, meanwhile, saw 13 COVID-19 deaths reported. Of course, every death is a sad event. And to be clear, there is never an intent here to minimize any human loss.

But consider: amidst the headlines screaming about those COVID-19 deaths, whether in traditional news media or social media, not being reported at least for purposes of context is the fact that (using 2019 data), 1,616 deaths on average happen daily in the Philippines.

To be more precise, on a daily average basis, every day 10 Filipinos die by suicide (this is pre-lockdown statistics, mind you), 33 from car crashes, 167 from stroke, 178 from cancer, 211 from pneumonia and flu, and 233 from heart disease. This is despite having vaccines for pneumonia and flu, and treatment for heart disease.

Why are we not shutting everything down? Apparently, toxic individuals, cars, sugar, and butter kill more people. And yet, we agreed to be locked-down, destroy our social fabric, ruin the economy, and damage our youths’ future for a virus that causes 0.79% of total daily deaths in the whole of the Philippines.

And the fear porn continues: media continues to focus on total cases which logically have no way to go but up, while completely ignoring the steadily lowering CFR and the equally steady rise in the number of recoveries.

How long do we need to pretend that we need to be horrified? Locked up in our homes, dehumanized behind masks, and isolated from each other?

Every move our country takes seems to be the opposite of what is needed: stoking fear rather than confidence, suppress business initiatives, and restrain church and familial relationships rather than encourage them.

Not surprisingly, depression and suicides are on the rise, and it’s not as if mental health professionals were restrained and treated as “unessential” services, unlike priests or ministers.

Melissa Moschella, Phd., natural law and family expert, correctly points that it is “particularly during difficult times, religion and religious community are powerful sources of much-needed solace, strength, meaning, and connection — both to other human beings and to God — that are crucial for the flourishing of both individuals and society as a whole.”

To hold every Filipino in suspended animation waiting for a vaccine is a fool’s choice — even the World Health Organization (WHO) correctly advises against it. Being wrong for so much during this pandemic, the law of averages finally caught up with the WHO. Indeed, Dr. Moschella’s words best puts in proper perspective the proper way forward: “We need to take precautions, particularly for the protection of more vulnerable populations, but fear of death should not prevent us, individually or as a society, from seeking to lead a fully flourishing human life.”

Even in these COVID-19 times, we must remember: living, not merely existing, is the point of human life.


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