Galvez defends PH ranking in Nikkei COVID-19 recovery index

Published October 8, 2021, 8:17 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said each country has a “unique” coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic curve which shall be considered in measuring their efficiency in dealing with the global health crisis.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. (File photo)

The chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 was reacting to the results of a recovery index released recently by Nikkei Asia which showed that the Philippines ranked last among 121 nations in terms of vaccination, infection control, and mobility.

“While we understand the main intention of these financial and business magazines in pushing economic recovery globally, we have to put into consideration the varying pandemic experiences of each country measured in this index,” Galvez said during the launch of a mega vaccination site in Valenzuela City on Thursday, Oct. 7.

“Context is very important. The data used by Nikkei only covered the month of September wherein the Philippines was at the height of its fight against the highly-transmissible Delta variant, while cases in other countries were going down,” he noted.

The Philippines scored only 30.5 points out of 90 points from the index measures listed by the Tokyo-based financial magazine. These measures include: (Infection Management) confirmed cases versus peak count, confirmed cases per capita; (Tests per case) vaccine rollouts, total vaccine doses given per capita, new vaccine doses given per capita, share of people who have been fully vaccinated; (Mobility) community mobility, Oxford stringency index, and flight activities.

The top five countries were Malta with 73 points, Chile and Bahrain with 72 points each, United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 71 points, and Saudi Arabia with 70.5 points.

Galvez pointed out that the country has “significantly” improved its testing capacity since the pandemic hit last year, hence, the government was able to test more individuals in September compared to other neighboring countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia and Myanmar based on global COVID-19 monitoring site Our World in Data.

“We have a high testing capacity so we also have more people testing positive because Delta has spread in the communities, thus, we obtained low index scores. But this does not diminish the fact [that] the Philippines was able to manage and delay the entry of the Delta variant because of our effective pandemic response strategy,” he emphasized.

“That’s why you cannot compare countries because each has a unique epidemic curve. Mababa ang mga kaso natin noong mga panahong dinagsa sila ng mga kaso dahil sa Delta. At noong nakapasok sa atin ang Delta, at saka naman nakaluwag ang ibang bansa (We have low cases when they [other countries] were swamped with cases due to Delta. And when Delta came to us, other countries started easing up),” he continued.

The Delta had also affected the country’s vaccination output as measures had to be implemented to limit the mobility of the people to arrest the surge.

“Many healthcare workers in vaccination sites were deployed to hospitals. Other personnel were tasked to man borders to monitor the entry of people from other localities. This is why many of our implementing units could only operate a limited number of vaccination centers,” Galvez said.

The Department of Health (DOH) also took offense at the analysis, which it said used a seven-day period in the month of September when the country was battling its worst surge of cases.

Aside from the Nikkei Asia Recovery Index, the Philippines also ranked last in Bloomberg’s COVID-19 Resilience Ranking released last Sept. 28 which measured 53 nations’ economic resilience to the pandemic.