EDITORIAL- Hope for a better year

EDITORIAL- Hope for a better year

The figure is down by five points. Considering the public health and economic crisis suffered in the year that’s about to pass, however, it’s a wonder that the drop in public optimism has not been greater in the survey conducted by pollster Social Weather Stations Inc.

The SWS survey, taken from Nov. 21 to 25 using face-to-face interviews, showed 91 percent of Filipinos welcoming the New Year with hope rather than fear. Pollster Pulse Asia came up with the same figure in its own survey, the results of which were released ahead of the SWS poll.

Filipinos have consistently expressed high optimism in all pre-New Year surveys. The 91 percent is typical, but SWS noted that it was five points lower than the 96 percent recorded last year. Meanwhile, seven percent of the 1,500 respondents said they were entering 2021 with fear – up from the four percent in a similar yearend survey taken by SWS in 2019.

Mental health professionals and assistance groups have reported a spike in cases of depression since the start of the pandemic, but a new year normally brings a promise of change for the better. This time, there is hope that 2021 will mark the end of this coronavirus pestilence, even as a variant and more infectious strain is now rapidly spreading.

The year is starting with three COVID vaccines already passing the stringent and reliable scrutiny of regulators in the United States and United Kingdom. Epidemiologists have expressed confidence that the vaccines will work just as well against the variant strain, which they also note is not deadlier than the original.

Several countries including Singapore have started mass vaccinations with the shots developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. Soon to be rolled out is the vaccine made by US biotech firm Moderna, which has also received emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration. Yesterday, UK regulators approved the emergency use of the vaccine developed by British pharma AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Those developments boost hopes that 2021 will be a better year. People, however, are also hoping that the year will herald reforms in many areas – to improve public health care and pandemic response, and to help people recover from the economic tsunami unleashed by COVID-19. The government must not dash those hopes.