Freeman Cebu Business

Technology, vaccine & stimulus: The way to go

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos - The Freeman

While there are anniversaries that are really worth celebrating others are just so painful to even be remembered. Where the best thing that we can do is learning from it. 

A typical example is COVID-19. Well, it’s been a year. This month is its first anniversary. To recall, the harsh reality came on March 11, 2020 when the WHO declared that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. Then, uncertainty pervaded. The world panicked. Totally unprepared, a lockdown was the only choice most countries opted to, ours included. Streets were deserted. As expected, all economies in the world plummeted. 

A few countries though have successfully navigated. Countries like New Zealand and Taiwan contained the virus and kept their economies moving. The rest (including the most advanced countries) were and are still reeling from the devastation and had to come up with huge stimulus to revive their ailing economies.

The worst year ever in our generation, there are a lot of lessons that we can learn from this malady. That diseases or viruses are more lethal and fearful than bullets. That it will not only kill people, it also kills the economy. 

Yes, bullets kill. But a military might of one country can always neutralize the strength of another rogue nation. Thus, though threat pervades, still, peace prevails, albeit, precariously.

The truth is, until 2019, despite the wars, chaos, threats, etc. obtaining all over the world, global tourism continued to grow. In fact, in the country, despite the Bohol’s Abu Sayyaf incident (where the paranoia that no one is safe pervaded), tourism continued to flourish. 

This fact was confirmed by the biennial Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report (TTCR) Survey which reported that there are over a billion tourist arrivals globally every year. Today, however, these numbers are gone. The three commas in a billion simply evaporated.  

If by definition, we consider someone a tourist if he or is she is not in his or her own permanent residence, forget about such reference. Due to lockdowns and quarantines brought about by the coronavirus threat, they were not tourists anymore, they were simply trapped and have simply become COVID19’s hostages. 

So that, what we are seeing right now are sparsely occupied hotels and empty theme parks as well as hangared aircrafts and garaged tour buses. Undeniably, tourism is practically dead, for now, and tour guides are penniless. So sad for a country and an island like Cebu where tourism is one of the major economic drivers.

Notably though, science and technology (S&T) saved us from entirely collapsing. First and foremost, while health scientists were burning midnight candles on both ends in developing vaccines, they came up with a temporary solution to contain its spread. So inexpensive yet effective, face masks and shields became our ubiquitous companions. Thus, the economy was able to move a bit and some were back to work. In Cebu, that included department stores, restaurants and a few tourist spots.

Then came the vaccines. This one is historic. Developing one in less than a year is phenomenal.  Totally unprecedented. So far, to those moneyed countries where a good number of their citizens took the jabs, the results are so encouraging.

Notably, COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining and vaccinations are rising. The USA, for instance, saw cases, deaths, and hospitalizations declining for 14 days now. The country’s new cases are down by 18 percent, while deaths and hospitalizations fell by 32 percent and 28 percent, respectively. With the US$1.9 trillion stimulus now in place, there is no other way for their economy to go but up. 

Technology, on the other hand, kept us sane in these trying times. Netflix and Facebook just did it. Not only that, in the pandemic’s worst, technology helped some workers held on to their jobs.  Through some platforms like ImmersedVR, Remotion and Zoom, working and collaborating from home became possible and just as effective. So effective that most employers are now considering this scheme permanent.

More importantly, through technology we were able to buy some home essentials and were able to put some food on our table. Imagine a COVID-19 influenced life without those online retail platforms and door to door deliveries.

Undeniably, in this COVID-19 year (March, 2020 to March, 2021), science and technology were at their best. Hopefully, like the USA, we can also benefit by using the same approach (technology, vaccine and stimulus in reviving the economy) in our own little way.

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