Health and Economic Indicators are Intertwined
Solid health and economic indicators have recently emerged to show that our country is bouncing back after a long battle with the pandemic. The lesser number of daily active Covid-19 cases, the increasing percentage of Filipinos who have received vaccines against the viral disease and the rising number of jobs in the Philippines are all welcome news.
While the Covid threat remains, especially from more infectious variants, we could heave a sigh of relief for now and take comfort in knowing that our hospitals are no longer as full and burdened as in the previous months.
The number of active Covid-19 cases dropped below the 50,000 marks in the fourth week of June, from more than 200,000 active cases in the third week of April. Although it had something to do with the redefinition of the word “active,” the drop was still drastic and should be highlighted.
It seems we are finally getting the upper hand in the campaign against Covid-19, with the daily recoveries exceeding new infections some of the times. The trend has resulted in a decline in active cases. If this continues, we could further bring down the number of active cases to 30,000 and eventually to 10,000. The lower figure will give authorities the confidence to fully reopen various economic sectors, including services and tourism, to bring back more jobs to our people.
The Department of Health (DOH) reported that some 5,839 Covid patients on June 30 recovered from the disease, bringing the total recoveries to 1.34 million. The agency reported 4,509 new cases on that day, putting the active cases at 48,649 or 3.4 percent of all cases.
More Filipinos, though, are losing their lives after contracting the disease. Total casualties as of June reached 24,662, or 1.75 percent of all infections. While the government considers the country’s cumulative case fatality rate low, the more than 24,000 deaths are a large number that we should not ignore, especially as the count continues to rise.
Hopefully, we could significantly lower the Covid morbidity rate in the coming weeks, as vaccination picks up and more hospital beds become available. Per the DOH as of June 30, the National Capital Region had 42-percent occupancy of the total 1,200 beds in intensive care units (ICU); 39-percent occupancy in 4,900 isolation beds; and 35-percent occupancy in the 3,500 ward beds. Only 31 percent of the region’s 1,100 ventilators were in use.
These numbers are better than the national average. For the whole Philippines, about 3,500 ICU beds registered 55-percent occupancy; 19,500 isolation beds at 47 percent; 12,200 ward beds at 44-percent; and 2,800 ventilators at 34-percent utilization.
As I have written several times in this space, we need to open more healthcare facilities, especially in Covid hotspots in Visayas and Mindanao to make sure patients are isolated, treated, and given ample time to recover, without infecting others.
The second reason that gives us hope for economic recovery is the government’s massive vaccination drive that has already administered 10 million doses as of last month. The supply sought by the private sector will finally arrive in July. By the government’s estimates, over 27 million vaccine doses will reach the country until August.
We are poised to make the biggest headway in the vaccination drive in the next two months. If we can sustain this pace of vaccination rollout, we may achieve our target of inoculating 70 million Filipinos, or the entire adult population, by the end of the year.
Inoculating all our adult population, including more than 40 million workers, and compliance to the government’s health protocols will enable the economy to significantly rebound from the impact of the disease and even exceed our pre-pandemic performance. Countries such as China and Vietnam, for example, have already recovered from the pandemic as early as the second half of 2020.
The employment picture in May supports this optimism. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show the unemployment rate eased to 7.7 percent in May from 8.7 percent in April, as the number of jobs increased by 1.45 million with the easing of the quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.
The number of jobless individuals decreased by 408,000 from 4.14 million in April 2021 to 3.73 million in May 2021. At the same time, total employed individuals reached 44.72 million in May 2021, up 1.45 million from April’s tally of 43.27 million.
The optimist in me says that we are slowly but surely making progress in the fight against Covid-19 and in reopening the economy. The economy is on the mend, as second-quarter gross domestic product figures will show next month. The daily Covid-19 cases are declining, especially in Metro Manila, while the vaccine rollout is expected to accelerate between August and December.
The economy and the nation should grow from strength to strength from hereon.