* My column in BusinessWorld, March 24, 2021.
The latest death and mortality data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) last week had many interesting aspects. Below we list 10 trends happening in the Philippines.
1 There were fewer deaths, not more, in 2020.
Since COVID-19 has killed thousands last year, the expectation is that there should be more deaths, high “excess mortality” over 2019 but this did not happen. The 1,700 deaths/day in 2019 became 1,578 deaths/day in 2020. Including some 95 COVID-19 deaths per day from March 11 (first COVID-19 death in the Philippines) to December.
2 There were 30,000 fewer pneumonia deaths, 7,000 fewer respiratory infection deaths, 5,000 fewer TB deaths.
Most surprising is that there were over 42,000 fewer deaths from infectious diseases last year than in 2019.
There are two possible reasons: One, people became more health conscious, transmission of infectious diseases significantly declined. Two, ordinary pneumonia was labelled as COVID-19 pneumonia; ordinary infections became COVID-19 infections, ordinary tuberculosis (TB) became COVID-19 TB. Sort of COVID-19 has murdered many other infectious diseases.
One explanation for the possible mislabeling of causes as COVID-19 deaths is the high PhilHealth reimbursement. If a patient is hospitalized, recovers or dies, from what is declared as non-COVID-19 positive pneumonia, PhilHealth will pay a small amount. If it is due to COVID-19, case payment to the hospital is high: mild pneumonia about P100,000, severe pneumonia P333,000, critical pneumonia P786,000.
3 There were fewer transport accidents and fatal assaults, but more suicides.
Lockdowns, checkpoints, curfew, closure of all bars and occasional alcohol bans, led to fewer road accidents, less fights. But there was more self-inflicted harm or suicides (see Table 1).
4 Cases are rising.
Why? It coincided with the vaccination rollout this March. Two of the many possibilities: One, “escape mutations” of the virus, and/or vaccination-triggered cases in which the vaccine triggered symptoms or more inflammation in people who are positive but asymptomatic. Two, people’s immune systems have been weakened due to prolonged lockdown or mobility restrictions and lack of income, and there are no prevention prophylaxis, early treatment drugs for symptomatic persons to avoid hospitalization.
5 “Superspreader” scaremongering and OCTA.
Octa Research is “a polling, research and consulting firm” but it is now into making alarmist predictions. There have been at least six reports from different news sources: 1.) “Virus ‘Super Spreader’ cited as debates over reduced commuter distancing continue among Cabinet members, health experts” (One News, Sept. 16, 2020); 2.) “Seminars, minors in malls can be ‘dangerous superspreaders’” (Manila Bulletin, Dec. 9, 2020); 3.) “CTA Research warns gov’t vs. ‘superspreader events’ due to new COVID-19 policies” (Inquirer.net, Dec. 9, 2020); 4.) “Black Nazarene feast a ‘superspreader’ event, OCTA Research says” (GMA, Jan. 9, 2021); 5.) “Cinemas can be superspreader” (Daily Tribune, Feb. 13, 2021); 6.) “People below 18 may become COVID ‘supercarriers’ if age restrictions ease, OCTA warns” (Inquirer.net, Feb. 16, 2021).
We now turn to public spending during lockdown.
6 Revenues are falling to the floor…
With many businesses and companies closed, fully or partially, temporarily or permanently, government tax revenues declined significantly, from an average increase of P315 billion/year from 2016 to 2019, it declined by P281 billion in 2020, or a net decline of nearly P600 billion.
7 While spending is rising to the roof.
All the salaries, allowances and bonuses of government personnel from national to local and barangay levels were given. New subsidies were also created, bigger borrowings made and higher interest payment were paid.
8 GDP crashing to 2018 level.
The Philippines’ GDP contracted 9.5% in 2020 from 6.2% and 6% growth in 2018 and 2019 (see Table 2). This contraction put the GDP size at P17.5 trillion in 2020, similar to the size of the GDP in 2018 of P17.4 trillion. It is not the virus per se that caused this economic crash but the government’s strict and draconian lockdown policies.
9 Continued demonization of early treatment.
The Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC Ph) has been advocating for focused protection of the vulnerable people (the elderly, those with comorbidities) via prophylaxis and early treatment using Ivermectin for humans (not Ivermectin veterinary products) plus supplements Vitamins C and D, zinc, and melatonin. Then all forms of lockdown and mobility and business restrictions can be lifted. But the Health department, the Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization, and various medical societies disapprove of, if not demonize, early treatment.
10 Lockdown déjà vu.
The current mobility restrictions for two weeks until
April 4 are similar to last year’s. Government said in mid-March 2020 that it
would take “only two weeks” to flatten the curve. The two weeks became two
months, became 12 months — 12 months of failure to control virus transmission.
Lockdowns do not work. The mantra “new normal” is actually “new dictatorship.”
BWorld 477, Global economic impact of lockdowns, March 09, 2021
BWorld 478, Power demand contraction and natural gas cronyism, March 14, 2021
BWorld 479, Lockdown déjà vu or back to normal, March 22, 2021.