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PH the worst place to be during COVID-19 pandemic, says resilience report

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Sep 29, 2021 6:59 pm

After months of a steady decline in the Bloomberg COVID Resilience Ranking of the best and worst places to be in the pandemic, the Philippines drops to last place for the first time. 

Out of 53 countries, the Philippines is now the worst place to be in the pandemic and its drop is a reflection of the challenges the country and the majority of Southeast Asia are facing, including containing the more contagious Delta variant and slow vaccination rollouts, according to Bloomberg.

This is true for the rest of the region as neighboring countries Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam all sit in the bottom five of the ranking. 

The resilience ranking is a monthly snapshot of how 53 major economies handle the COVID-19 pandemic “with the least social and economical upheaval.” Its ranking is based on 12 data indicators that span the following:

  • Virus containment
  • Quality of healthcare
  • Vaccination coverage
  • Overall mortality
  • Progress toward restarting travel and easing border curbs

The Philippines saw a steady decline in the rankings, where it landed second to the last (52nd) in June and August. In April, the country was at the 45th spot out of 53. For September, with its last place, the country scored a total of 40.2.

Meanwhile, European countries lead the rankings for the third straight month, with Ireland taking over Norway on the top spot. 

This, according to the report, was brought by the strategy used widely in Europe, which is to largely limit quarantine-free entry to immunized people. “Bestowing more domestic freedoms on the inoculated helped boost vaccination levels to some of the highest in the world—over 90% of Irelands adult population has received two shots—while allowing social activity to resume safely.”

Ireland tops this month's Bloomberg COVID Resilience Ranking.

The Top 10 countries on this month’s resilience report are:

  1. Ireland (79.4)
  2. Spain (78.2)
  3. Netherlands (76.4)
  4. Finland (76.1)
  5. Denmark (75.3)
  6. United Arab Emirates (74.7)
  7. France (73.9)
  8. Switzerland (73.8)
  9. Canada (73.8)
  10. Norway (73.6)

While the bottom 10 in the report are:

53. Philippines (40.2)

52. Vietnam (43.7)

51. Malaysia (44.1)

50. Thailand (47.6)

49. Indonesia (52.4)

48. Iran (54)

47. Argentina (55.5)

46. Pakistan (56.1)

45. India (56.2)

44. Nigeria (56.3)

The Philippines, along with its Southeast Asian neighbors are in the bottom five of this month's Bloomberg COVID Resilience Ranking.

Philippines scored low in reopening, ‘underperforms’ in COVID-19 containment

According to Bloomberg, the Philippines scored low on all four metrics that are related to reopening, as the country having the most stringent lockdown among the 53 countries. The Philippines’ vaccine coverage rate of 20% is among the lowest of those ranked.

The country’s Flight Capacity, which measures how far air travel has gotten back to normal, is 74% below 2019 levels as the Philippines’ borders remain closed to most international travelers.

The report also underscores that the country “underperforms” when it comes to COVID-19 containment.

“While its cases per capita over the past month are a fifth of what vaccine frontrunner Israel has seen, the Philippines had the second-worst positive test rate in the Ranking, at 27%—only better than Mexico,” said the report.

It also stated that the metric indicates “the government is only testing the sickest patients for COVID and that there’s likely high levels of undetected infection in the community.”

The Delta variant’s arrival in the country affected the Philippines’ score this month, according to the report. The country was also the last of the Southeast Asian economies to start seeing the Delta surge decline. It was on Sept. 11 when the country logged a record-high 26,303 cases, and for several days showed number of cases consistently stayed at more than 20,000.

“The outbreak has extracted large economic and social costs, as shown in metrics related to quality of life. Community mobility remains 29% below a pre-pandemic benchmark, and the economy is forecast to grow 4.5% this year, less than estimated before delta’s spread,” the report noted.

The Philippines is also considered as having weaker healthcare infrastructure compared to other ranked places, and “a lower Human Development Index score to cushion the virus hit.”

‘Fragmented’ COVID-19 response

Passengers queue as they wait for public transportation on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. Photo by Boy Santos/The Philippine STAR

Bloomberg said the Philippines’ pandemic response was hampered by the Local Government Code of 1991 that made local government units responsible for the health system. “Without uniform guidance, village-level health teams often follow rules set by mayors or chieftains."

It also pointed out the country’s slow contact tracing and testing. “Hospitals are understaffed and low on beds, forcing patients to queue. Although borders are closed to most foreigners, migrant workers can return, straining quarantine facilities.”

As the government eased restrictions with new a community quarantine with alert levels system, but still with vaccination rate low, Bloomberg said this “raises the risk of further transmission.”

PH resilience ranking not surprising—Malacañang

In a statement on Sept. 29, Malacañang said the Philippines’ ranking in the resilience report is “not surprising.”

“We take note of Bloomberg’s latest COVID-19 Resilience Ranking report,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“We are not surprised that the Philippines, together with other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are at the bottom of the list while countries which topped the list are developed countries suck as Ireland, Spain, Netherlands, Finland and Denmark.”

Roque noted that COVID-19 vaccines are important in the country’s fight against the disease, but what’s happening is, as President Duterte said in his speech at the recently concluded 76th United Nations General Assembly, the “rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines, while poor nation wait for trickles.”

“Having said this, the Philippines, in many numerous occasions, has advanced its position on the universal access to COVID-19 vaccines for the plain fact that the pandemic will not end unless the coronavirus is defeated everywhere through vaccination,” he said.

He added, ““This resilience ranking is in line with the notion of total health, which we personally advocated, where the reopening of more industries and businesses allowing more people to return to their livelihood must be balanced with improving the country’s healthcare system capacity.”

As of this writing, the Philippines logs 12,805 new confirmed cases, which brings the total of COVID-19 cases in the country to 2,535,732 with total deaths at 37,978 and 2,365,225 recoveries.

Banner and thumbnail photo by Miguel de Guzman/The Philippine STAR