Consider economy, healthcare when comparing nations on COVID-19 situation - DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 08:03 PM

A client undergoes PCR rapid testing at a private clinic in Quezon City on June 20, 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A Philippine health official said Monday that comparing countries in terms of their respective COVID-19 situations must be in consideration of such factors as economic status and health care system capacity.

“Nais po naming linawan na dapat po tayong mag-ingat sa pagkukumpara o paghahambing sa mga bansa. Dahil mahalaga po ang konteksto ng kanilang health care system capacity, economic status at iba pa,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing.

(We want to clarify that we should be careful in comparing countries. Because it is important to note the contexts of their health care system capacity, economic status and other factors.)

Based on the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region data, the Philippines has the most number of new cases from June 17 to 23, and has the fastest 7-day moving average. 

“Kung kinakailangan talagang magkumpara, mas maigi na lang po na tingnan natin ang ibang bansa sa kabuuan po ng ASEAN,” Vergeire said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that includes the Philippines.

(If we really need to compare, we can look at the other countries within the ASEAN.)

Vergeire earlier said not to "cherry pick the countries we want to compare ourselves to.”

Using WHO data as well, Vergeire said the Philippines is only third in ASEAN when it comes to the total number of COVID-19 cases, after Singapore’s 52,812 cases and Indonesia’s 43,246, as of June 28.

The Philippines has logged 35,455 cases, as of the same date.

Vergeire also said that while the case fatality rate of the Philippines at 3.55% is higher than the ASEAN average of 2.9%, it continues to go down and is in fact lower than the global average of 5.15%.

“Sa kabuuan, makikita natin na bagaman tayo ay nahuhuli sa ibang batayan, mas mainam naman ang ating performance sa ibang batayan,” she said, citing the country's improved testing capacity and contact-tracing in the country.

(Overall, we can see that while we may lag behind in some factors, we have better performance in others.)

Vergeire dismissed the call of the Alliance of Health Workers for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to resign. Last Friday, the group said the administration had “no clear and comprehensive plans on how to combat the deadly virus” on top of the worsening situation of health workers.

Vergeire said the government has already expanded its testing protocol and has joined global clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19.

Health workers have also been consistently supplied with personal protective equipment, while benefits have been given to those who died due to or became severely ill with COVID-19, she added.

Coronavirus infections among health workers was a concerning issue at the start of the outbreak in the Philippines, even for the WHO, because of its high rate. It has since gone down.

Duque has received flak for the late distribution of benefits for health workers.