'Underperformer': Philippines ranks 79th among 98 countries in COVID-19 suppression

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
'Underperformer': Philippines ranks 79th among 98 countries in COVID-19 suppression
Motorists pass by reminders about COVID-19 Pasay last January 18, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — An independent think tank ranked the Philippines 79th out of almost 100 nations assessed for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the country one of the “underperformers” in the Asia Pacific region. 

The COVID Performance Index of the Lowy Institute evaluated the coronavirus response of 98 countries. The Philippines received a dismal score of 30.6 out of 100, trailing most of its Southeast Asian peers.

Vietnam and Thailand were among the countries that managed the pandemic better than others, placing second and fourth, respectively. Singapore (13th), Malaysia (16th) and Myanmar (24th) also performed strongly.

Indonesia, which has the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the region, placed below the Philippines at 85th place. Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Timor Leste were not included in the index.

Strugglers in Asia-Pacific

Lowy Institute said “smaller players” such as Taiwan and New Zealand responded to the health crisis more effectively than other countries in the world.

New Zealand took the top spot in the index with an average score of 94.4, while Taiwan ranked third.

“Although Asia–Pacific countries fared well as a whole against the coronavirus, country performance across the region varied significantly between high performers and persistent strugglers,” the think tank said.

“Significant underperformers, such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines emerged too, struggling to contain COVID-19 throughout much of 2020 with few signs of improvement,” it added.

The Philippines has recorded nearly 520,000 COVID-19 infections and over 10,000 deaths almost a year since authorities first detected a case.

The failure to ban entry of travelers from China as well as difficulties in testing and contact tracing marred the early stages of the Philippine government’s response to the pandemic. The Duterte administration also faced intense scrutiny over its militarized approach to a public health crisis.

Authorities are scrambling to lock in vaccine supplies to inoculate at least 50 million Filipinos this year and help contain Southeast Asia’s second worst COVID-19 crisis. 

DOH: Don’t compare apples to oranges

The Department of Health said that while it welcomes researches on COVID-19 and opportunities to learn from good practices, it noted the study failed to capture “the complex nature of pandemic response.”

“Usual issues in any measurement across different contexts include the difficulties in choosing what components should be measured, which indicator best represents that component, transforming and comparing data from different sources/definitions/interpretations across countries, and the very unique  environmental or historical influences that affect overall performance,” the DOH said in a statement.

“We can’t be comparing apples to oranges,” it added.

Worst performers

The United States, with over 25 million cases, sat near the bottom of the table at 94th place. Brazil was the worst performing country on the list.

China, where SARS-CoV-2 was first identified, was excluded due to the lack of publicly available data.

A total of 98 countries were assessed in the 36 weeks that followed their hundredth confirmed case of the virus. To point how well or poorly countries have initially handled the pandemic, Lowy Institute used six indicators, which include the following:

  • Confirmed cases
  • Confirmed deaths
  • Confirmed cases per million people
  • Confirmed deaths per million people
  • Confirmed cases as a proportion of tests
  • Tests per thousand people


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