As we are approaching 16 months of indefinite lockdown in many countries, what have we learned and not learned (and thus keep repeating the same wrong policies)?
I constructed a table using data from different official sources to come up with the discussions. The sources are:
1.) For GDP growth/contraction, the IMF World Economic Outlook 2021 database (https://www.imf.org/en/publications/weo) for 2020 and Trading Economics (https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/gdp-annual-growth-rate) for Q1 2021.
2.) For mobility restrictions, I downloaded the long Excel sheets per country from the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports (GCCMR, https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/), with changes from the baseline period Jan. 3 to Feb. 6, 2020. The GCCMR covers six areas, but for brevity I chose two, Retail and Recreation (R&R, restaurants, cafes, malls, museums, cinemas) and Transit stations (TS, subway/MRT stations, seaports, taxi stands, highway rest stops, car rentals). Only China has no mobility data, very likely since the country does not allow Google to collect and/or publish the data.
3.) For COVID-19 deaths per million population (CDPMP), the data comes from Our World in Data (OWID, https://ourworldindata.org/) and Worldometers (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries).
4.) For vaccination rates (at least one dose given as percent of population), the data also comes from OWID (https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations?country).
I choose to include data from the big economies in each continent, especially from East Asia.
Readers, please go through the numbers as you may discover other trends that I fail to discuss below.
The following can be observed from the above numbers.
1. The deep GDP contraction for many economies in 2020 was directly caused by strict lockdowns and mobility restrictions and not the virus per se. The same virus that originated from China has vastly different results in economic performance in other countries.
2. GDP contractions in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021 are mild and would point to the economic recovery of many countries by late 2021 as their lockdowns are more relaxed.
3. The Philippines has the most draconian mobility restrictions probably in the whole world in 2020 and 2021 in TS. It comes second to Argentina in R&R in 2020, and next to UK and France in 2021.
4. The Philippines was the worst performing economy in Asia in 2020 until the first quarter (Q1) of 2021, and was among the worst performers in the whole world. This was so not because of the virus but because of the strict lockdowns. Its CDPMP, or deaths per million population, by the end of 2020 was only 1/20th of Belgium, 1/13th of Spain, UK, and US.
5. There was a near double or more than double increase in CDPMP in the first six months of 2021 compared to the 10 months of the pandemic in 2020 in many countries. See in particular Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, and Russia.
6. This further proves that the strict lockdowns of 2020 did not work in controlling new severe infections and deaths in 2021 as the virus naturally mutates.
7. Countries with high vaccination rates of 50% or more of total population showed a higher increase in CDPMP in 2021. See in particular Italy, the UK, France, Germany, and Belgium.
8. Asian countries with low vaccination rates of below 10% of total population showed still low CDPMP. See Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Also, Nigeria, which has Africa’s biggest economy and population.
9. Many doctors including those affiliated with the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH) are now getting more COVID-19 patients who are already vaccinated, antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) cases.
10. With the foregoing discussions, government should never consider mandatory vaccination, direct or indirect. Dr. Rafael Castillo, a famous Filipino cardiologist, member of the PRC Board of Medicine, has argued several times in his column in the Inquirer that “vaccination should be targeted and protective and not mass, injudicious vaccination — or, to put it bluntly, mass and potentially harmful vaccination.”
Viruses mutate, humans mutate too. Natural herd immunity among the young and healthy is as natural as gravity as shown in human survival and expansion despite many pandemic and virulent viruses in the past centuries and decades.
In addition, there are several cheap, generic, off-patent drugs that have been proven for decades to be safe and effective in anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial treatment for people who display symptoms, or as prophylaxis for the elderly and those with comorbidities. These include low-dose Ivermectin (approved since 1981, https://c19ivermectin.com/), or low-dose hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, approved since 1955, https://c19study.com/) plus zinc, vitamins C and D, sunlight, others to avoid hospitalization.
We are on the 16th month of endless mobility restrictions, with business and school closures, depriving children and the healthy elderly from going out to the parks, from eating in malls and enclosed restaurants. The economic and psychological damage to people is piling up with each passing month. It is time to lift the lockdown and business closures and give us back our constitutional rights, our human freedom of mobility and being productive.
Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers