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Mobility control, growth control, price control

The government imposed a strict lockdown over Metro Manila and other provinces on March 16, 2020. It was supposed to be for two weeks only to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases. The two weeks became two months, and now we are on the 11th month of strict, prolonged lockdown.

Making good measurement of mobility changes and restrictions of people and goods is the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports (GCCMR). There are six areas where mobility changes are measured from the baseline, the median value from the five‑week period between Jan. 3 – Feb. 6, 2020. I chose the area on Transit stations (subway/MRT stations, seaport, taxi stand, highway rest stops, car rentals) because they capture mobility (or lack of it) of people and goods.

Then I compared the GDP (gross domestic product) growth of economies to see any correlation between high mobility control and GDP growth or contraction. Then the COVID-19 deaths per million population (CDPMP) to test the hypothesis that “more lockdown = less COVID cases and deaths.”

The numbers show this general trend: more lockdowns and mobility control leads to growth control and contraction, with little or no impact on controlling COVID-19 deaths. Take note in particular the Philippines, Malaysia, and the UK for strict lockdowns, Vietnam and Taiwan for light lockdown economies (see Table 1).

So the government’s strict, indefinite lockdown is successful only in making the Philippines Asia’s worst performing economy in 2020, and having the biggest contraction in Philippine history since 1947 when GDP figures were first collected.

Now comes the vaccine-pushing agenda, seemingly with little difference from shabu-pushing except that the government is the main pusher for the former.

The Philippines still has a high incidence of communicable diseases like tuberculosis (TB) in Asia. In 2018 for instance, TB incidence in the Philippines was three times that of Vietnam, six times that of Malaysia, and 12 times that of Singapore. Meanwhile, the Philippines had twice the number of deaths by communicable diseases and maternal, prenatal and nutrition conditions (CDMPNC) in 2016, than Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan (see Table 2).

But now public resources are heavily diverted towards controlling COVID-19 cases, adversely affecting resources to fighting other communicable diseases like TB, dengue, pneumonia, malaria, etc.

The Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH) remains the most consistent group in the country in calling for: 1.) adopting focused protection of the vulnerables, early and home-based treatment of those with symptoms, and, 2.) lifting the lockdown. The group and its members are not anti-vaccine as is said by many groups in the vaccine-pushing agenda. The group believes that innovation and R&D for safe and effective vaccines takes many years, even decades, not just a few months. Thus, mass vaccination should not be hurried. There are many proven, decades-old, off-patent and cheap generic treatments that are existing but sneered at if not demonized by the Department of Health, World Health Organization, and establishment medical groups that do not want to antagonize the health department and the World Health Organization.

What should be hurried by the government is the drastic relaxation of the strictures on the mobility of people and goods, opening up the economy and schools. Domestic flights and public land transportation should not be hampered by very strict requirements and permits as if people are going to Iraq and Syria.

Related to mobility control and growth control are various price controls imposed by the government like the recent pork price control. These are on top of (minimum) wage control, fare control, housing rent control, drug price control, electricity price control (at WESM), and interest rate control. And on top of existing gun control, drugs control, inequality control, and so on. These are government regulatory overreach.

The main functions of government — why it was invented in many societies in the first place — are murder control, robbery control, rape control, abduction control, arson and destruction of property control. Government should penalize and demonize criminals. Government is not justified in imposing new command and control on various aspects of the economy.


Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers

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