EDITORIAL - Ranked last, again

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Ranked last, again

For the third consecutive month, the Philippines has ranked last among the world’s 53 largest economies in terms of resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its November Resilience Ranking, titled “The Best and Worst Places to be as Winter Meets Omicron,” Bloomberg gave the Philippines a score of 43.1 – a slight improvement from last October’s 40.5, but still behind other Southeast Asian countries Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Bloomberg based the rankings on vaccination coverage, mortality throughout the pandemic, quality of healthcare, virus containment, severity of lockdowns and progress in restarting travel. The two economies at the bottom of the list, Bloomberg noted, had given out fewer than 100 shots per 100 people: Indonesia had administered 87.3 doses per 100 and the Philippines 73.2.

The Philippine government had previously blamed the country’s poor ranking on the scarcity of vaccines. With the country now offering pediatric jabs as well as boosters to all adults, however, the problem is clearly more complicated than mere vaccine supply. In some areas, vaccines have expired because of logistics problems and the failure of local government units to deal with residents’ vaccine hesitancy.

The just concluded three-day National Vaccination Day, extended for another two days in some areas, boosted the vaccination rate and could improve the country’s ranking in the next Bloomberg ranking this month. The government has maintained that it will continue managing pandemic health risks while providing an environment conducive to economic growth.

But the emergence of the latest COVID variant of concern, called Omicron, will test the pandemic responses of all countries. The Philippines continues to have weak capability for contact tracing, and COVID testing remains so costly people continue to fake test results or else avoid testing until it is too late to contain infection.

Bloomberg, in its report, emphasized the importance of an effective system of contact tracing and testing. It also stressed the role of health education, which helped socialize basic safety protocols such as hand hygiene and wearing of face masks in the consistent best performing economies.

Philippine officials find it unfair for the country to be compared with advanced economies. The ranking, however, covers the world’s biggest economies including Southeast Asian neighbors at similar levels of economic development. In terms of pandemic response, it is better to be compared with the best performers. The ranking is a challenge for the Philippines to do better.

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