By Jay Ledesma

New Year 2021: Road to recovery or relapse

HAPPY New Year! As to how we traditionally welcome the start of a new year, we are again full of hope and anticipation for a better one. And considering what we went through in 2020, we are one in praying and wishing that 2021 will be a better year for us, for our families, for the Filipinos, and for the whole world! 
But is 2021 really going to be the year when we recover from the ill effects of the pandemic? Or will we see a relapse into our early COVID days? 
Much of the optimism is coming from the fact that anti-Covid vaccines are already available or will be made available for many by the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2021. The United Kingdom was the first to administer the vaccines to its select citizens. Other countries have followed suit. Back home, it was recently announced that our own members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) have been administered vaccines from China, though with some “drama” along the way. Though these vaccines should not be considered a panacea (cure-all), they are believed to prevent infectious diseases. With these vaccines administered to the majority of the Filipinos ( and other nationalities, for that matter), we can be more comfortable and confident to totally open our economy again. More businesses will be operational which translates to higher employment which translates to better income in the pocket and more food on the table. 
And that is why we need to observe all the health protocols so we can maintain our good health and ready for the vaccine. Regardless of the efficacy and effectiveness of those vaccines, they will not matter anymore if we are already infected. 
Another metric that is making us optimistic about 2021 is the stock market performance. Even with our economy partially open, we see encouraging movements in our stock markets. Though they are still below the pre- COVID price range, we have seen growth from where it was at the onset of the pandemic. PSEI last March 19, which was the start of the lockdown, was at 4,623 and was down YTD at -38.06% (vs YTD 2019). As of this writing, the market has bounced back to 7,109 which is a 54% growth from the March 2019 level. Versus the same period last year, it’s just now at -7.20%. Meaning, if you invested P 100,000 last March and stayed invested, your P 100,000 has grown to PhP154,000 by now. Imagine those who placed by the hundreds of thousands or millions. No wonder, the rich become richer during the crisis. 
We have not seen the full recovery of the market. So much room for growth just to equal the pre-COVID level. With the vaccines and full opening of our economy, we can look forward to better days. But as all financial experts will say, we already have to be “IN” the market before it's full upswing...that means now. 
But while we anticipate a bounce back this 2021, there are also some indications that things may take a turn to a relapse. Our health officials are expecting a surge in the number of new COVID cases after all the Christmas and New Year festivities. Left and right, we see all health protocols being violated and dismissed. Some are even initiated by our elected officials. More LGUs are concerned that they may not have enough isolation facilities and hospital beds to accommodate new COVID patients There are even talks now that stricter quarantines will again be implemented in major cities in anticipation of the surge. 
As if this expected surge is not enough, there is the fear of the new Covid-19 variant or strain reaching the country. The new strain/variant, which was first detected in the UK, is said to be more contagious. Unfortunately, the new variant has spread and has now reached some of our neighboring SEA countries. To prevent the new variant from landing in our country, effective Dec 30 and until January 15, 2021, our government has imposed a travel ban on all foreign nationals from 20 countries where the new variant is claimed to be already present. 
If we are not able to contain these two likely scenarios: the surge of locally transmitted new Covid-19  cases and the entry of the new Covid variant, we might again find ourselves back in the state where we were during the early months of the pandemic. Lockdowns here and there, restricted travels and minimal business operations, hospitals in full capacity, etc. With all these, one can already expect our economy to shrink again. Now, that is something we can no longer afford to happen. 
The good news is...We can prevent a relapse! The government and some private companies have partnered to acquire the vaccines. The travel ban has been imposed. With these two measures, we can avoid the further spread of the virus. But what will really prevent us from a relapse and seal our road to recovery is our individual effort to strictly observe and follow the health protocols of social distancing, proper wearing of face masks and face shields, washing of hands, and limited gatherings. Many have proven that we can continue earning and living our everyday lives while observing the protocols. Why should we still choose to disobey? 
Let us be mindful that fighting and winning against Covid-19 is within our control. We can all contribute and make our road to recovery this 2021 happen! Let this be on top of our New Year’s resolutions! 


About the Columnist

Image of Jay Ledesma

Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.