Philippines sees fewer deaths as lockdowns stop other illnesses, accidents
A woman walks inside the Mega Isolation Facility at the CarSiGMA (Carmona-Silang-General Mariano Alvarez) Gymnasium on September 5, 2020.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
Philippines sees fewer deaths as lockdowns stop other illnesses, accidents
Ramon Royandoyan (Philstar.com) - October 5, 2020 - 3:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — Despite a rising death toll from coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), limited people movements have resulted into a general decline in deaths this year, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Monday.

From January to August this year, state statisticians registered 371,880 deaths, down 9% from same period last year. Broken down by month, it was only in July when a year-on-year increase in death toll was posted.

The low number of deaths accounted even for a brief increase in late registrants saw from March to April, when lockdowns prevented people from transacting with government and securing death certificates for their loved ones.

Sought for comment, Anthony Leachon, former adviser to the interagency task force for emerging infectious diseases, said low deaths while everyone is staying home may actually make sense.

“You would expect that during a lockdown there would be less deaths due to infections due to lack of movements, less accidents, and less criminal activities. The deaths reported are from all causes,” Leachon said in a Viber message.

Benjamin Co, an infectious disease doctor from University of Santo Tomas Hospital, added that apart from COVID-19, Filipinos are unlikely to contract other diseases when they stay indoors. "There will be fewer illnesses due to other causes," Co said separately.  

While lockdowns had been relaxed since June and business establishment have reopened, the government continued to prohibit senior citizens, pregnant women and people with underlying conditions from going out as often, believing these segments of population run the highest risk of contracting COVID-19. 

In addition, people are also boosting their defenses among most common and seasonal ailments like the flu. Beaver Tamesis, president of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines, earlier said pharma firms have seen an increase in flu vaccine take-up this year.

That said, Leachon also cautioned about reading too much on the data, saying delayed recording of deaths is still possible in the coming months. “But you see it caught and the report points out late reporting of deaths. We can’t cherry pick the data,” he said.

The general picture may also not apply when localities are considered. In the National Capital Region, the epicenter of COVID-19 outbreak, cumulative deaths rose 5.5% year-on-year to 54,748 as of August.

Broken down, higher number of deaths were reported in Las Pinas, where fatalities went up 13.5% on-year, followed by Muntinlupa (11.5%), Paranaque (10.8%), Pasay (9.5%), and Caloocan cities (8.6%). 

On the flip side, lower deaths were seen in the cities of Mandaluyong, where the number of deceased declined 12.4% annually, and Navotas where they went down 4.1%.

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