The Covid-19 pandemic: Where are we?

WHAT’s happening? We, like most of the world, are in the midst of a surge in Covid-19 infections – in effect the third wave of the pandemic that started in March 2020 and worse than the first two. Even the world’s richest nations with massive vaccinations undertaken are being hit. For example, the US, with 54 percent of its population already vaccinated, still had cases the other day of 122,212 per 1 million people compared to our 18,898.

The third wave has particularly hit badly nearly all Asian countries; even those (like Vietnam and Malaysia) that had seemed to have the pandemic under control last year. Japan, for instance, has posted 12,469 cases per 1 million population.

What happened? As all organisms are wont to do because of their imperative to survive, Covid-19 mutated into what is called the Delta variant (in the epidemiologists’ Greek-letter nomenclature). The variant was first detected in India in March. Probably since the virus had infected numerous people (33 million) in that country, it gave it a huge number of bodies in which to evolve.

Delta is now the most dominant strain responsible for infections worldwide. The World Health Organization reported that its genome sequencing showed 70 percent of infections here are by Delta.

Source: National Task Force against Covid-19
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US spent an astounding $6.4 trillion in post-9/11 wars

NOT a few US newspapers after the fall of Afghanistan reported information that made Americans grimace: the US war cost its taxpayers an astounding $2.3 trillion.

But there’s an even more shocking figure that is hardly reported: The US spent $6.4 trillion* in the wars it undertook after the 9/11 attack on the New York World Trade Center that took 3,000 lives, mostly American lives.

These wars were either the most horrible, bloody and expensive revenge campaign in history or the costliest manhunt for its admitted perpetrators, the Saudi Osama bin Laden and his gang.

These wars demonstrated how the Americans’ expertise in propaganda packaged these conflicts as noble crusades as the “War on Terror” overall, but even for each country.

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‘I was sold overpriced PPEs!’

TO be sure, the government must answer point by point the politicking senators’ allegations of corruption at the Health and Budget departments.

This is especially so as its quite obvious that whether these are true or not, these are obviously part of an all-out campaign recently launched by the Yellows and their newfound allies (like Senators Richard “Dick” Gordon and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, I would think) to throw dirt at President Rodrigo Duterte to prevent a Duterte 2.0 administration very likely 10 months from now.

It is a despicable campaign: we’re in the middle of the battle against Covid-19, yet the likes of Gordon and Franklin Drilon want to grill the officials – the Department of Health – leading our fight.

It’s not the time to do that, dear senators, not now. The documents won’t be lost and those people you are accusing are certainly not the type to flee overseas as Lacson did in 2010 just before an arrest warrant was issued against him.

Purchase order during Aquino 3rd term: P3,500 to P3,864 per piece
Purchase order during Aquino 3rd term: P3,500 to P3,864 per piece
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‘Squatters’ promise reveals Pacquiao’s intellectual and political stupidity

SEN. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao recently declared that if he becomes president, we won’t see squatters in the country in four to five years. He said: “All of them will have their own homes or condominiums or subdivisions. They won’t pay for these, even for one peso.”

At least early in the political season Pacquiao has already revealed: 1) he is in the mold of the traditional politicians we’ve hated, those who’d promise people the moon just to get elected; 2) he is either intellectually lazy or just plain stupid; and 3) he is politically vacuous.

He’s the first announced presidential candidate to promise such a big thing. But we all hear these sickening promises every election… I promise this, I promise that, that it has become a favorite topic for editorial cartoons.

Can’t Pacquiao or his handlers be more innovative? But, then, what do you expect of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, who is the antithesis of his father, in integrity and intellect.

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Actions have consequences, always

AS I tried to fathom the colossal blunder of the world’s mightiest superpower, the United States, in its ignominious defeat by the Taliban, I realized it was another testament to that old, nay, ancient, adage: Actions have consequences, always.

A truism that may sound but read on; the adage applies not just to nations, but also to individuals. It could be the most important principle you may want to remember in your life.

On April 14, President Joe Biden announced that US troops would start leaving Afghanistan in May, the withdrawal to be completed, for dramatic impact, on Sept. 11, on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks that prompted the invasion of that country two decades ago. The Biden government would later make the excuse that it was Donald Trump who had committed to the policy in his last year in office – which Trump defense officials are now claiming to be a ruse in the negotiations. Biden probably thought he couldn’t let his predecessor go down in history as the peacemaker and not him.

Biden’s announcement had terrible consequences, although it is unclear whether he had ignored the advice of his security team or that perhaps even the Pentagon had grown tired of what Biden called the “forever war.”

The biggest mistake not only in such military actions, but in other major actions, is ignoring the reality that these are not undertaken in a vacuum. There are other players in the “game” who obviously have all the liberty to react as they please.

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Follow the Swedish model? Are you nuts?

I COULDN’T believe what a columnist here wrote that Sweden’s performance in addressing the pandemic – no lockdowns, no health and social protocols – was “salutary.” He even, comically I think, pats himself at the back that he is the “heretic” that has been proven right in espousing the Swedish model in dealing with the pandemic.

Is he nuts? Sweden has been one of the worst-hit countries in the world. Its herd-immunity belief, that the virus will go away after much of the population are infected and would have developed natural immunity has been totally proven wrong. In a rare public appearance. the Swedish King Carl 16th Gustaf said several months ago: “I think we have failed. We have a large number who have died, and that is terrible.”

A huge 11 percent, 1.1 million, of Sweden’s population were Covid-19 infected, among the highest rates in the world. In our case only 1.7 percent got sick of the virus. Some 14,634 of Swedes died from Covid, much more than the 8,793 killed in Metro Manila whose 13.5 million population is bigger than Sweden’s 10.1 million. Sweden is the stark outlier among four Scandinavian countries (see accompanying table), with the other three having cases at most of 340,567 (for Denmark).

If those Swedish rates of cases and deaths per population, the result of their it-will-just-go-away-stance, were converted to our population of 111.2 million, there would have been 12.2 million Filipinos infected, more than seven times the actual figure now of 1.9 million infected.

Source: worlddometers.info/coronavirus
Source: worlddometers.info/coronavirus
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Covid-19 here: How bad is it?

THE past week, especially the other day when the number of new Covid-19 cases hit a record high of 18,332, I felt a bit panicky: Is Covid-19 overwhelming us?

Indeed, in the past months, the country’s slot in worldometers.info/coronavirus’ statistics had been worsening. Its ranking in the Worldometers listing of 222 countries had slowly dropped in the last two months from the 25th slot (No. 1, the US with the largest number of cases) to the 21st the other day.

However, a rational way to determine how bad the situation here is would be to compare our pandemic stats with those of others. The caveat though is that we have the 13th largest population in the world, and therefore, we should be in the top slots of Covid stats if unadjusted for population.

My tabulation is in the accompanying table.

*On August 23. Source: Worldometers.info
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Lessons from Kabul, especially for us

THE most serious consequence of Kabul’s fall for us is that it could strengthen Islamic jihadism globally and that includes our part of the world. The Taliban flag says what the al-Qaeda flag also declares, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is God’s messenger.” Indeed, two years ago, the battle of Marawi had reportedly some members of the Taliban fighting with our local jihadists.

Most worrisome is the fact that the stupid, bungling Americans left tens of thousands of arms and ammunition, not to say tanks and Humvees, with the Taliban. I have no doubt these will end up in Muslim Mindanao one of these days. Afghanistan could become the arms depot for Islamic jihadists worldwide.

We, Filipinos, should learn lessons from the fall of Afghanistan.

1. President Rodrigo Duterte was totally right in charting an independent foreign policy away from the country’s vassalage to the US since its formal independence. Even as the US had spent an astronomical $2.3 trillion in its war in Afghanistan – essentially history’s most expensive manhunt for Osama bin Laden – lost 5,694 in American lives, a new administration suddenly decided to leave with the Taliban capturing it in just seven days. The US cannot be relied on.

We actually have had a “mini-Kabul” in 2012.

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Stop ganging up on Duque for politicking, not at this time

I FIND it despicable for Sen. Richard Gordon and the Yellow stragglers in the Senate to be ganging up on the Health department and its secretary for allegedly mismanaging funds intended to fight the pandemic.

For chrissakes, not at this time, guys, when we are moving toward the darkest night of the pandemic, with daily infections of at least 10,000 in the past two weeks and likely to get worse as the new, more communicable Delta variant spreads.

Don’t these senators know that whether they like its secretary Francisco Duque 3rd or not, the Department of Health (DoH) is our vanguard fighting Covid-19?

Don’t they understand by now that President Duterte is not one to be swayed by the Senate and even by public opinion? Duque will be there until the end of Duterte’s term, so no way for the pharma syndicates you might know he stopped DoH from dealing with, to return.

What Gordon and his gang have been doing is like summoning generals to the Senate during a battle, say with jihadists in Marawi, accusing them of corruption, that they hadn’t bought enough bullets fast enough, or worse, that they’re overpricing bullets.

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