The Philippines will mark its first anniversary of strict lockdown today (March 16). Going for another year, do we expect to experience lockdown déjà vu, the same familiar mobility restrictions, or should we demand we go back to a normal open economy?
THE PHILIPPINES HAD THE WORST LOCKDOWN POLICIES IN THE WORLD IN 2020.
Going through the long excel sheets of per country daily mobility changes of people in the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports (GCCMR), changes from the baseline period Jan. 3 — Feb. 6, 2020, the Philippines indeed has the most strict, most draconian, most dictatorial lockdown policies in the world, at least among the top 40 largest economies in the world.
Two of six areas in the GCCMR are chosen: Retail and Recreation (R&R — restaurants, cafes, malls, museums, cinemas) and Transit stations (TS — subway/MRT stations, seaport, taxi stand, highway rest stops, car rentals). The period covered is from April 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, computing the average for daily data of the last nine months of the year.
THE PHILIPPINES HAD THE 3RD WORST PERFORMING ECONOMY IN 2020 AMONG THE TOP 40, THE WORST IN ASIA.
Largely because of the forced closure of many businesses for many months — they were later allowed to open but with many restrictions like those below 15 and above 65 years old are prohibited from entering malls and restaurants — the Philippines was third to Spain and the UK when it came to economic contraction among the world’s top 40 largest economies. And in terms of growth dive from 2019 to 2020, the Philippines had the worst in the world: -15.5 percentage points.
THE PHILIPPINES EXPORTS SHRANK FURTHER.
The country’s already small exports of $70 billion in 2019 shrank further in 2020 due to the closure of many companies and the many roadblocks and checkpoints between provinces, even between cities and municipalities in the same province.
The COVID-19 deaths per million population (CDPMP) of the Philippines is not high compared to many countries with numbers that are 10 times to 15 times larger. Three of the top 40 economies that do not have full 2020 GDP data — Argentina, Iran, the United Arab Emirates — are not included in Table 1.
China has not allowed Google to publish data on mobility changes. The numbers are likely to belie its claim of having GDP growth instead of a contraction, and it’s very low CDPMP of three.
FEWER DEATHS IN A ‘PANDEMIC’ YEAR.
A seemingly puzzling issue is that the number of Philippine deaths in 2020 is lower than those in 2019 which had no pandemic. One reason would be the reduced fatal road accidents as many vehicles are prohibited from traveling long distances.
Another potential issue would be the significant decline in deaths from pneumonia and other diseases in 2020 as many flu and pneumonia cases and deaths were labeled as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This will be confirmed or belied when the Causes of Death for 2020 are reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority in the coming months.
WAY FORWARD: BACK TO NORMAL, PILIPINAS
Reopening the economy 100%, with no more lockdowns even with new virus variants emerging, is possible. The Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH) has two simple proposals for this to happen.
One, focused protection on the vulnerable, the elderly, and those with many comorbidities, via prophylaxis and early treatment, with home-based medical protocols via low-dose Ivermectin (approved since around 1980, see https://c19ivermectin.com/), or low-dose hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, approve since 1955, see https://c19study.com/) plus zinc, Vit. C, Vit. D, others. Avoid hospitalization.
Two, open up the economy, all restaurants and schools, gyms and churches, allow the young and healthy to go out, get more sunlight which gives free Vit. D. Give back the people’s inherent and Constitutional freedom of mobility, freedom to be productive.
The vaccine rollout should continue for those who believe in their efficacy and safety. The use of focused protection and vaccine can co-exist while those with various allergies and comorbidities who are wary of the vaccine will have another option.
Going back to our normal lives with zero or minimal mobility restrictions is the key measure to revive the economy and create more jobs, not more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.
Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers