POSTSCRIPT / April 10, 2022 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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COVID downtrend boosts Leni’s rallies

Believe it or not, the steady decline in the number of COVID-19 cases has been helping the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan presidential tandem draw mammoth crowds to their campaign rallies that literally turn the sky pink and shake the ground with excitement.

COVID downtrend boosts Leni-Kiko presidential tandem rallies. Photo: Vice President Leni Robredo Facebook.

The Duterte administration itself is highlighting in its reports the same decline in Covid cases – but for a different reason, which is to show that its public health drive is succeeding in curbing the pandemic that has killed almost 60,000 Filipinos and hobbled the economy.

While the downtrend may not benefit directly the presidential bid of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., that need not be a concern of President Duterte who has said often enough that he is not supporting or endorsing anyone for president in the May 9 national elections.

The restrictions on people going to business establishments, malls and other public places have been relaxed. More people are now able to move around to more areas, including campaign rally sites.

While helping stir commerce back to life, the space that has been opened up also gives people who have been cooped up too long a chance to check the things they hear, good or bad, about the lady in pink offering to lead the way to an inclusive national recovery.

With the Department of Health announcing data showing a declining number of Covid cases, more people, a few of them without facial masks, have resumed visiting kith and kin  – with some of them ending up in the talked-about Leni-Kiko rallies and experiencing the infectious energy.

Aside from the usual political speeches, the rallies have taken a kind of cultural flavor at times with the presentation of historical and folkloric vignettes unique to the place that help keep the crowd focused while being informed of issues.

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The improved Covid situation described by DoH figures and graphs presented in the “Talk to the People” TV show of President Duterte last Tuesday can be validated by what can be readily seen in the neighborhood and public areas.

This easy validation is unlike, say, that of presidential preference surveys involving supposed interviews with 2,400 people who have remained invisible, faceless and nameless. One is left guessing if the surveys are for real or are mere mind-conditioning tools.

The ABS-CBN News Data Analytics Team has reported, meanwhile, that the country just saw its lowest number of active COVID-19 cases in roughly four months.

Data shared by the health department, it said, showed that the 30,527 active COVID-19 infections reported Friday were the country’s lowest since Jan. 4. The DoH also reported 290 new infections, less than 300 for the fifth straight day.

Amid the good news come the warnings of epidemiologists that Holy Week which is upon us and the remaining days leading to Election Day could become super spreaders if people do not observe the rules and protocols for avoiding infection.

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If the Covid numbers are down to manageable levels in the Philippines, it looks different in the United States, whose cases have placed it firmly on top of the world0meters.info listing with its total of 82,034,738 cases as of yesterday.

Global data as tabulated based on World Health Organization statistics as of April 8, 2022, showed the top two countries with the most number of Covid cases after the US are India with 43,033,067, and Brazil with 30,094,388.

But when broken down to the number of cases per one-million population, their standing changes on the global list of 228 countries and territories. The US (goes down to No. 54 among the most infected) with 245,164 cases/1M pop.; India (to No. 149), 30,652 cases; and Brazil (to No. 88), 139,830 cases.

On the shorter list of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines with its declining Covid cases has improved its ranking from being long-time No. 2 (to Indonesia) to No. 5, below Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

When their ranking is based on the countries’ number of cases per one-million population, the Philippines’ position improves one notch to No. 6 from the top.

The ASEAN ranking when the count is based on per one-million population places Brunei (with its smallest population of 444,869) No.1 on the list with 310,085 cases/1-M pop., followed in descending order by Singapore (190,873), Malaysia (130,147), Vietnam (102,502), Thailand (54,673), Philippines (32,819), Laos (25,846), Indonesia (21,643), Myanmar (11,121), and Cambodia (7,934).

 VCMs, ballots for NYC delayed

Receiving queries from readers who are registered to vote in the Philippine consulate general in New York as to when they would be able to cast their ballots, we emailed Consul General Elmer G. Cato to inquire about the preparations.

He told us Friday that the Vote Counting Machines, overseas ballots, and other election materials shipped by the Commission on Elections from Manila were still in Alaska and expected to arrive in New York this week. This has delayed the final testing and sealing of the VCMs.

Cato said the consulate is committed to ensuring the proper conduct of the overseas elections and protecting the outcome. “We have been strongly promoting overseas voter registration and awareness about this year’s national elections,” he added.

Tomorrow, he said, the consulate will co-host a webinar with the Comelec to explain the postal voting method that the consulate will use, as well as to respond to election-related queries.

“While we understand the concern of some kababayan about the delay in the arrival of election paraphernalia,” Cato said, “Their assertion of possible disenfranchisement and of us not being forthcoming about the delay is unfair on our part as it is beyond the control of the consulate.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 7, 2022)

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