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Lancet’s ranking of Philippines as 66th in COVID-19 suppression ‘unfair’ —expert

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines

An infectious diseases specialist on Sunday expressed disappointment over the “unfair” ranking of the Philippines as 66th out of 91 countries in suppressing COVID-19.

The data used was based on August figures, Dr. Benjamin Co of the University of Santo Tomas Hospital said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.

International medical journal The Lancet published on September 14 a study showing the Philippines ranking 66th out of 91 countries in the suppression of COVID-19. It added that one of the reasons for the Philippines' failure to suppress the pandemic is medical populism.

“Kung titignan ninyo, Agosto ang pinakamasamang buwan ng Pilipinas. Kumbaga 'yan 'yung peak natin talaga,” Co said.

“Napakahirap naman mag-judge ng efforts ng sambayanan na i-address ang pandemyang ito base sa datos ng isang buwan. Parang unfair naman sa gobyerno,” he added.

While acknowledging the success of other countries in suppressing COVID-19, Co noted that Myanmar that ranked high in the study is actually facing an increase in COVID-19 cases at present.

“Nandoon ang Myanmar. Pero kung tutuusin, ang Myanmar, mula ng simula ng katapusan ng Agosto hanggang ngayon, ay saksakan ng dami ng kaso na ngayon,” Co said.

The Lancet ranked 91 countries based on incidence or the number of new cases per million population per day and also assessed mortality rates, tests performed, and effective reproduction rates (ERR).

Its COVID-19 Commission classified the Philippines as having “moderate transmission” with 37.5 new infections and 0.5 new deaths per million per day in August.

The Philippines also conducted 8.2 tests per case daily last month and had an ERR of 1.2.

“One reason for failure to suppress the epidemic is a style of political leadership that has been called medical populism,” The Lancet study said.

Citing Filipino researcher Gideon Lasco, the study defined “medical populism” as “simplifying the pandemic by downplaying its impacts or touting easy solutions or treatments.”

It also includes the effort in “spectacularizing their responses to crisis, forging divisions between the ‘people’ and dangerous ‘others,’ and making medical knowledge claims to support the above.”

“Why would you call medical populism the reason why we are in number 66 based on the number of new cases alone?” Co pointed out.

He, however, admitted that the response to the pandemic in the country should have been more about encouragement and reward than scare tactics in enforcing health protocols.

Aside from this, Co also warned against rushing the recovery of the economy with the reopening of many businesses as it may result in another surge of COVID-19 cases.

“We are too much in a hurry,” he said.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines breached the 300,000-mark on Saturday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,747 new infections, marking the fifth consecutive day where less than 3,000 cases were reported.

The nationwide total now stands at 301,256 cases.

The DOH also announced that 787 more patients have recovered from the illness, bringing the total number of recoveries to 232,906.

Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 5,284 with 88 new fatalities. —KG, GMA News