Philippines is 'Worst Place to Be In' During COVID: Bloomberg Index

After months of continuous decline, here we are.
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

Following months of continuous decline, the Philippines is now the "worse place to be in" during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloomberg said in its monthly Resilience Ranking.

The country placed last in the September ranking of 53 of the world's economies valued at more than $200 billion pre-pandemic, which were scored based on how the virus is being handled most effectively with the least social and economic disruption.

This capped a "steady decline over the course of 2021", Bloomberg said, noting this reflected how the country was struggling to keep up with the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant.

"The Philippines faces a perfect storm in that it’s grappling with the more ferocious delta variant at the same time as it works with an inadequate testing regime and sees disruptions to its economy and people’s livelihoods as the pandemic continues to rage," it said.

In the assessment that consists of 12 datapoints covering virus containment, the economy, and reopening progress, the country underperformed across the board. 

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Recognized for having one of the most stringent lockdowns of all 53 countries ranked, the Philippines scored low on all four of our metrics related to reopening, as flight capacity was at 74% below 2019 levels.

In terms of COVID containment, the Philippines underperformed still despite its number of cases only a fifth of what vaccine rollout frontrunner Israel has seen, as the country ranked second-worst in positivity rate of tests at 27%, behind Mexico at 34.7%.

For Bloomberg, this indicates that "the government is only testing the sickest patients for COVID and that there’s likely high levels of undetected infection in the community". 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Filipinos have called on government for mass testing but appeals have been largely left unheard, as government pandemic response time and again relied on lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus. 


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Noting the country's vaccine coverage rate of 20% as among the lowest of those ranked, Bloomberg said the timing of delta variant’s arrival also mattered for the Philippines' grim score as the country was the last of the Southeast Asian economies ranked to witness the delta variant's rage. 

"In comparison, Indonesia and Malaysia -- placed last in the Ranking in July and August respectively -- hit their peaks in the corresponding month," it said.

Overall, Southeast Asia as a region, made up the bulk of the September Ranking’s lowest rungs, with Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam accompanying the Philippines in the bottom five.

Lastly, metrics related to quality of life showed the delta outbreak's "large economic and social costs".

Community mobility remained 29% below a pre-pandemic benchmark, and the economy is expected to grow 4.5% in 2022, which is less than previously estimated when Delta was yet to spread.

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The country was also noted for its weaker healthcare infrastructure compared to other ranked places, and its lower Human Development Index scorewhich assess a population's well-being based on life expectancy, access to education, and income per capitathat could help cushion the pandemic's impact. 

For Bloomberg, what the Philippines could do is focus on improving the pace of its vaccination rollout, wherein the most vulnerable should be given utmost priority so that the link between cases and deaths could further weaken.

The implementation of the more targeted lockdowns are an improvement, it said, as blanket restrictions worsened inequality in the country as only "relatively affluent Filipinos" could afford to work from home, have groceries delivered, and reduce their exposure compared to low income ones who typically engage in service sector employment, where they faced greater risks or even suffered job loss. 

"What’s increasingly apparent is that the pandemic is far from over, so it’s important that the Philippines -- together with the rest of the developing world, where vaccine coverage is much lower -- stay vigilant and prepare to be fighting this foe for some time to come," Bloomberg said.

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