Coronavirus infections surged past two (2) million in the Philippines early this month with more than 38,000 deaths. Added to the crisis, there is recession, unemployment, and hunger. (Photo courtesy by AP)
What led to this situation is that many family doctors didn’t visit their patients for weeks. And I can’t blame them, because that’s how they saved their own skin.
— Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte
ACCORDING to Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking of the best and worst places to be amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippines ranked dead-last in its placement, thus capping a steady decline over the course of the current year.
The media company’s monthly snapshot — which measures where the virus is being handled the most effectively with the least social and economic upheaval — ranked 53 major economies on 12 data points related to virus containment, the economy, and opening up.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, according to health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire and presidential mouthpiece Atty. Herminio ‘Harry’ Roque Jr.) the Philippines dropped to last place, reflecting the challenges the country is facing from the onslaught of the highly transmissible Delta variant, which hit Southeast Asia particularly hard amid difficulties containing the more contagious strain and slow vaccination rollouts.
The region, which recently had the worst outbreak in the world, makes up the bulk of the September Ranking’s lowest rungs, with Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam also in the bottom five.
But what relegated our country to last place?
Actually, the Philippines faces a perfect storm in that it’s grappling with the more contagious Delta variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 that causes the disease known as Covid-19. And at the same time, our country is working with an inadequate testing regimen as well as serious disruptions to the economy and people’s livelihoods even as the pandemic continues to rampage across the archipelago.
Based on Bloomberg’s report, our country scored low on all four metrics related to reopening, and with a vaccine coverage rate of just 20 percent — among the lowest of those ranked — the Philippines is engaged in one of the most stringent lockdowns among the 53 countries surveyed.
Although our Flight Capacity, which is the measurement of how far air travel has gotten back to normal, has somehow improved, it registered 74 percent below 2019 levels as our borders remain sealed to visitors or balikbayans coming from other countries.
On Covid containment, we have underperformed too even while our cases per capita over the past month are a fifth of what vaccine frontrunner Israel has seen. And we, too, had the second-worst positive test rate in Bloomberg’s ranking at 27 percent—only slightly better than Mexico.
This indicates that our government is only testing the sickest patients for Covid-19 and that there are likely high levels of undetected infection in the country.
The Delta variant’s arrival in the Philippines also mattered for our score this month. Setting aside Singapore’s recent surge in infections, we were the last of the Southeast Asian economies ranked to start seeing its Delta wave ebb, reaching a peak in mid-September. In comparison, Indonesia and Malaysia—placed last in the Ranking in July and August respectively — hit their peaks in the corresponding month.
Meanwhile, the outbreak has likewise extracted large economic and social costs, as shown in metrics related to the quality of life. Community mobility remained 29 percent below the pre-pandemic benchmark and our economy has been forecast to grow 4.5 percent the current year, less than estimated before Delta’s spread.
The Philippines also has a weaker healthcare infrastructure compared to other ranked places and a lower Human Development Index score to cushion the virus hit. (ai/mtvn)