Almost, but not yet

His positive verdict: ‘Even with limited resources, our death rate per million is among the lowest in the world’.

The stunning return of traffic in Metro Manila is a prime indicator of the pandemic’s near end. The situation on the streets of the metropolis is a far cry from those days of enhanced community quarantine when people stayed home for intermittent periods during varying lockdown levels.

Yet as people try to adjust to increased activity and the easing of mask-wearing lately, we recall the feeling of trepidation when Covid-19 was only beginning to spread.

It is exactly three years since a nationwide lockdown was imposed. What followed was a relentless barrage of challenges that tested the limits of the Duterte leadership.

The first order of the day was to contain any burgeoning panic with rules and regulations, which limited people’s exposure to the coronavirus. However, the tongue-twisting IATF-EID (which stood for Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) could not seem to easily untangle the little problems that came up along the way.

Keeping things in control — from ensuring safe passage for the essential workers to tamping down distress from the poorest sectors that could not get a day’s work to buy food — took quick action,
immense planning, coordination, and follow-through.

With April 2020 records showing “12.9 million unemployed people, almost 19 million families facing income losses without savings in the third quarter of 2020, and 15.5 million families going hungry,” the first year of the pandemic was a real test of the Filipino bayanihan spirit.

The Health department bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, stretching its manpower and resources to the limit as the virus continued to spread.

Still, as Dr. Edsel Salvana of the Department of Health Technical Advisory Group said in a report some days ago: “The pandemic seems to be coming to a close, and we have maintained extremely low numbers despite introductions of new sublineages. Our healthcare remains resilient. Bivalent vaccines are coming in. Despite the lifting of the mask mandate, Filipinos continue to wear masks to protect one another, not just from Covid-19 but from other respiratory illnesses.”

His positive verdict: “Even with limited resources, our death rate per million is among the lowest in the world.”

As workers return to offices, business has indeed picked up, though many have had to downsize operations. Small to medium businesses continue to thrive.

Where are we now, three years later?

In May 2022, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said in an update on the Philippine economy: “The Philippines is well on its way to recovery.” He based this on the economy’s growth of 5.7 percent in 2021 and a “robust sustained momentum with an 8.3 percent growth in the first quarter of 2022.”

This year, optimism remains high although experts keep a reality check by saying, “it will hardly rise above pre-Covid levels…”

What could boost our economy is travel and tourism, which “is forecast to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024,” according to McKinsey & Co.

Yet while government and the business sector work in tandem to bring the Philippine economy back on track, strong and sustainable, the humanitarian aspect of the pandemic should not be neglected.

For while the pandemic had social and economic impacts on the country, other global events and climate change continue to weigh on the people and impede any progress we might be making.

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