EDITORIAL - âCatastrophicâ

EDITORIAL - ‘Catastrophic’

(The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2020 - 12:00am

More businesses have been allowed to reopen as the country revives economic activity. The public health and economic crisis arising from coronavirus disease 2019, however, continues to wreak havoc on livelihoods.

Consumer confidence remains tepid, and there is little enthusiasm for travel even if many restrictions have been lifted. Certain businesses that had hoped for gradual recovery with the easing of quarantine restrictions have been disappointed and forced to close shop permanently. Financial woes are also making it difficult for many families to cope with the new blended learning mode.

After eight months of COVID-related restrictions, it is not surprising that 82 percent of Filipinos consider their quality of life to have worsened in the past 12 months. Pollster Social Weather Stations described this outcome in its latest survey as “catastrophic.”

It was a slight improvement from the high of 83 percent when a similar survey was taken in May, but was a deterioration from the 79 percent recorded in July. Malacañang had previously said the assessment was not unexpected, considering the COVID situation, and that the survey results could have in fact been worse.

The latest nationwide survey was taken by phone from Sept. 17 to 20. Among the factors cited by the 1,249 respondents in assessing their situation were the loss of jobs and the times they experienced involuntary hunger in the past 12 months.

Such factors could continue as the pandemic persists without a vaccine or cure. The survey results should add urgency to the implementation of stimulus measures to revive the economy and restore livelihoods. The results should also strenghten the resolve to make the country more resilient to public health crises.

Taipei, for example, put to good use the hard lessons it learned during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome from 2002 to 2004, when it was shut out of critical information for proper response. With COVID, Taiwan imposed travel restrictions as early as January, ramped up production and distribution of face masks, reminded the public of hygiene protocols, and implemented an efficient contact tracing and isolation system. The result: as of Nov. 5, Taiwan had recorded only 573 COVID cases, with 523 recovered – for a total of 50 active cases – with seven deaths. And it did not resort to crippling lockdowns.

So pandemic resilience is possible and should be a goal, especially since there is no certainty that vaccines will be developed for emerging diseases. There is still no vaccine for SARS. A public health crisis need not lead to a catastrophic quality of life.

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