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Marching on from the COVID-19 pandemic

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 01, 2021 4:00 pm

The World Health Organization said that last week, COVID-19 cases worldwide fell by 11 percent and deaths by 20 percent.

There have been some 113 million COVID‑19 cases and 2.5 million deaths since China reported its first cases to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019, according to a recent CNN report. The Philippines has reported 571,327 cases as of last week, and 12,247 deaths.

In the Philippines, it was around March last year that the government started to treat COVID-19 as the real bombshell that it is, and not just some elephant in the room. A restrictive lockdown commenced March 16, and though now relaxed in many places, remains in force.

But there’s more than a glimmer at the end of the tunnel.  According to the WHO, COVID-19 cases fell by 11 percent last week (though it was rising in the Philippines), and deaths by 20 percent.

“It was the first time since the pandemic began more than a year ago that there has been such a sustained drop,” a report by The Telegraph said.

A weary nation is marching on despite the pandemic, learning how to fight it, adapt to it and live with it.

Many countries have begun their inoculation against the highly infectious virus. In the Philippines, many major business groups are advocating a shift to modified community quarantine (MGCQ) as soon as possible.

We’re getting there. A weary nation is marching on despite the pandemic, learning how to fight it, adapt to it and live with it. And the good news is, despite each heartbreaking death, there are encouraging signs that yes, we will overcome the greatest crisis the modern world has seen.

I asked personalities from different fields what’s giving them encouragement a year after the pandemic.

Sen. Sonny Angara

One encouraging thing for me is even pre-pandemic, with the free college law, many more kids and families are getting opportunities their parents or past generations never had. Same with social media and the internet — the amount of information available online is staggering. We can only hope our young people will take advantage of these opportunities.

Mayor Mel Aguilar, Las Piñas City

With the continuous efforts of our city health and city government, Las Piñas has the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region. The city has been focused on the challenges brought about by the pandemic and programs are directed to subsidize the needs of Las Piñeros.

We have set up two Department of Health-accredited isolation facilities — LIGTAS 1 and LIGTAS 3, with a 185-bed capacity to complement existing private and public hospitals. Services for health are continuous, such as free PCR swab testing, which are conducted daily.

As our COVID-19 cases have significantly dropped, business in our city is beginning to pick up and the city government has doubled its efforts in assisting our local MSMEs, especially in the leniency of tax payments.

Steven Tan, president, SM Supermalls

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, business name registrations and renewals were 44 percent higher in 2020 vs. 2019. This is proof that amid the pandemic, there are still many opportunities that retailers can find and discover.

The way retail business is operating now is one of immense remodeling and innovation. We see a marked change in consumer behavior and this presents new opportunities for retailers. You note this in terms of new product offerings, shifts in merchandise mix and store formats, and even ways of marketing. It is encouraging to see new ideas and innovations in play.

With the new focus on wellness, business is picking up for related categories such as health stores, fresh produce, sporting goods and active lifestyle. Home improvement is also on the rise and this is seen in upticks in the sales of furniture, small kitchen appliances, household cleaning appliances, and even plants and ornamentals.

Malu Gamboa Lindo, GM, Azuthai, Cirkulo, Milky Way & Tsukiji

 COVID-19 has not stopped us from continuing to live our lives as best as we can. We did especially well this past Christmas, the New Year and Valentine’s weekend, as we seem to be celebrating these occasions more than ever. Gifting of Cirkulo, Milky Way and Azuthai Zoom party boxes for one’s birthday/anniversaries in place of big parties has become the new norm. Our Tsukiji sashimi and sushi platters have been the most popular gifts for special friends and family.

It’s been a tough year with many adjustments for all, but somehow, we try to bring happiness and express our love and appreciation more than ever. For us Filipinos, the most popular way is still through our stomachs! Lucky for us!

Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo, president/CEO, Wildflour Café+Bakery 

 If there’s anything encouraging that arose from the pandemic, it’s that running a food business outside of a brick-and-mortar is possible. Not as ideal, but possible.

A lot of restaurants were pushed to refine takeaway and delivery models.

You see a lot of restaurants nowadays having rapid growth and development of out-of-store sales, i.e. takeout and delivery. Seeing several old and new brands and players alike adapt to the drastic change in consumer behavior as a result of the pandemic by being creative in the online e-commerce sphere to better reach customers has been very exciting. While competition is fiercer, everyone seems to be always on their toes and wanting to be at the top of their game.

We’re also constantly surprised by how much customers want a one-stop source for all their cravings, all available through these e-commerce platforms.

The business has been picking up as customers have also slowly been returning to dining-in with the easing of restrictions (especially for those with al fresco seating), together with the gradual recovery of the economy; thus restaurants are able to benefit from both the reversion back to the original sit-down business model, and their now more robust e-commerce offerings.