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PH virus response fails to make IMF cut

Manila still looking to flatten curve while others already well
By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 05:30 AM October 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Although it imposed the longest and most stringent COVID-19 lockdown in the Asia-Pacific region, the delay in mass testing and dodgy contact tracing failed to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the Philippines, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.

In its Asia and Pacific Regional Economic Outlook report released on Wednesday, the Washington-based multilateral lender lumped the Philippines with India and Indonesia as among countries that were “still striving to flatten the pandemic curve” while Pacific island-countries had already contained the disease.

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PH’s GDP to shrink

The IMF earlier projected the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) to shrink by a record 8.3 percent this year, no thanks to slow COVID-19 containment on top of the pandemic-induced tourism slump, as well as the global recession’s impact on overseas Filipino workers’ remittances—the country’s biggest dollar source that used to drive the economy by spurring spending.

The IMF noted that the Philippines, Malaysia and New Zealand imposed “near-complete lockdowns for more than a month” with the Philippines enforcing two and a half months of enhanced community quarantine that halted 75 percent of the economy.

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The GDP thus fell by 16.5 percent year-on-year during the second quarter, shedding millions of jobs and likely sliding back millions of Filipinos to poverty, especially in urban areas.

In the Philippines, India and Indonesia, “challenges (caused by government capacity constraints) in implementing and enforcing lockdowns, especially in more densely populated emerging markets with greater levels of informality and poverty, may have made lockdowns less effective,” the IMF said.

Increase in cases

“Limited health-care capacity, including in testing and tracing, may have also affected the effectiveness of lockdowns. Several countries ramped up testing and tracing capabilities, but some countries lagged behind,” the IMF added, specifically pointing to Indonesia and the Philippines, which currently lead Southeast Asia in the number of infections.

“Some countries reopened before infection rates fell significantly and experienced an increase in cases after opening. India started easing restrictions while virus cases were still rising, and Indonesia and the Philippines had seen a stabilization in cases but had not suppressed the virus,” the IMF noted.

“These early openers have continued to experience a high number of new infections, reflecting a pickup in mobility after reopening, less scope for voluntary social distancing, and other factors like mass movement of migrant workers in India. The speed of reopening has been slower in the early openers, reflecting persistently high infection rates. India, Indonesia and the Philippines relaxed their harshest containment measures, but many sectors remain partially closed (that is, some states or subsectors have not reopened),” the IMF added.

The IMF said that in the Philippines, it did not help that there was “limited or insufficiently implemented fiscal stimulus,” such that mobility remained low due to fear of getting infected with the virus.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 response, IMF, PH pandemic economy
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