"The slow inoculation rate in most parts of Asia will compound the social problems besetting the region."
A faster vaccine rollout evidently is the ticket to economic recovery.
The Philippines-based Asian Development Bank has warned of “lasting scars” from the pandemic after lowering its 2021 growth forecast for developing Asian nations due to rising infections, debilitating lockdowns and slow vaccination rates. Most Asian countries, because of their poor finances, have been less fortunate than richer countries like the US and most of Europe. Only a third of Asia’s population is protected against COVID-19 because of scarce vaccine supply compared with over 50 percent in the US and close to 60 percent in Europe.
The limited and uneven vaccine coverage in most of Asia explains the widespread lockdowns resorted in the region and its laggard economic recovery. And Asia is far from being out of the woods. Delayed vaccine rollouts and the likely advent of new variants after the Delta strain could prevent the region from immediately joining the rest of the world in the recovery process. The ADB conceded that growth tended to be “stronger in economies that had progressed the most in controlling the pandemic.”
The slow inoculation rate in most parts of Asia will compound the social problems besetting the region. Income losses caused by the pandemic in particular, according to the ADB, threaten to leave lasting scars and have a multidimensional effect on regional economies.
Asia’s battle to reduce poverty has likewise been compromised. With lockdowns imposed over many cities and regions and rising unemployment as a direct result of business closures, Asia’s poverty level has risen.
The ADB made no exception of the Philippines. Manila faces the same risks as other developing nations in Asia. The progress in the COVID vaccination program is critical to the economy’s safe reopening. A crawling vaccination rate can be outpaced by the spread of newer, contagious COVID-19 variants that, in turn, may result in the return of stricter lockdown measures and again shut down economic activities.
The Philippine economy remarkably bounced back in the second quarter of 2021. It will squander that opportunity if the vaccine rollout is not accelerated from the current pace.