MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The Philippines climbed to the 33rd spot out of 121 countries in the Nikkei Asia COVID recovery ranking in May, 8 months after it placed last in the index.
The Nikkei Global Recovery Index assesses the infection management, vaccine rollouts, and social mobility in countries. The higher the ranking, the closer a place is to recovery, it said.
In November, the Philippines ranked 57th in a list of 122 countries.
The country's further rise is due to its easing of restrictions as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to decline, according to the Tokyo-based newspaper.
"The nation reopened its borders to fully vaccinated international tourists in February. This week, it also stopped requiring foreign nationals with booster shots to present a negative test result on arrival," its report read.
As of Sunday, the Philippines' total COVID-19 cases reached 3,691,546 with a positivity rate of 1.22 percent, slightly lower than the previous week's 1.24 percent, according to ABS-CBN Data Analytics Team head Edson Guido.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque on Monday said the country's rise in the global COVID recovery index was due to the public's compliance with minimum health standards, the country's "good vaccination rollout," and its Alert Level System.
The Philippines will likely keep Alert Level 1 as the lowest step in COVID-19 restrictions until President Rodrigo Duterte's term ends on June 30, he earlier said.
"These are the 3 things I would say contributed in our COVID-19 recovery. We bested 80 other countries: UK, US, Switzerland, Israel, Japan, Canada, Australia, even Singapore. Nung una, okay, medyo nangungulelat tayo (at first we were lagging behind)," he told ANC's Headstart.
"This is a marathon. Ang mga iba akala sprint, pabilisan (some think it's a sprint, who is the fastest). We've steadily orchestrated the national government's pandemic response in collaboration with the local government units, and also equally important to point, the private sector."
Malacañang welcomed the country's jump in the index, saying it "reaffirms the effective recalibration of strategies of the Philippines in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic."
"We hope this trend would continue as we remain vigilant with the emergence of new variants while vigorously pursuing the economy’s full recovery," acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said in a statement.
For its part, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said it welcomes the "significant improvement" of the Philippines' ranking in the said index.
"The Philippines’ current position in the Nikkei Asia’s Recovery Index report for May 2022 is a clear indication that the Philippines has found its footing and is now on the path towards recovering from the pandemic," vaccine czar and task force chief Carlito Galvez Jr said.
"In fact, the Philippines is recognized as one of the two countries in Asia, aside from Vietnam, which registered the best performance for the month of May," he added.
The Philippines from the beginning prioritized saving lives over keeping the economy open, said Dr. Edsel Salvana, infectious disease expert and member of the DOH technical advisory group.
"You can't put the economy before lives kasi kung 'di ka magsarado 'pag kumalat ang COVID, bagsak din ang economy mo. Mas sustainable talaga ang ganitong plano," he said in a televised public briefing.
(You can't put the economy before lives because if you don't lock down, your economy will slump if COVID spreads. This plan is really more sustainable.)
"The economy will follow if you prioritize saving lives, if you prioritize health."
As of Thursday, the Philippines has fully inoculated 69.4 million Filipinos or 77 percent of its target 90 million population, the Department of Health said.
Of those with primary boosters, 14.3 million have received an additional those while 142,600 have gotten their second booster shot.
Video courtesy of PTV