DOH: COVID-19 response 'improving' despite worst place ranking in Bloomberg report


The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday maintained that the country’s COVID-19 response is “improving” despite Bloomberg’s recent report naming the Philippines as the “worst place to be” amid the pandemic.

In an interview on Dobol B TV, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire mentioned the improvements in the government’s vaccination program and its testing capacity.

In March this year, Vergeire said the government was only able to inoculate around 3,000 per day, which eventually increased up to 1 million vaccinations on some dates.

She likewise reiterated that the country has started its testing with only one laboratory capable of detecting COVID-19 cases but now, there are more than 260 laboratories across the Philippines.

The Philippines also conducts an average of 70,000 to 80,000 COVID-19 tests per day, Vergeire noted.

“So if we look at this kind of improvement, even though nandoon tayo sa mga ganoong (we are evaluated in those) studies, we think we are doing something and we are improving,” Vergeire said.

“Although we cannot say na maipapantay doon sa ibang bansa (we can reach the capacity of other countries), but all these countries are having these difficulties and challenges right now,” she added.

Vergeire said the government will “just continue to work” and maintain the kind of response that it is doing because they believe that they are “doing something good.”

“Napapababa natin ang kaso, napapataas ang bakunahan kahit hindi pa ganoon sa sinasabi nating percentage but we are getting there,” she said.

(We are able to curb the number of cases and we were able to increase our vaccination, even though we have not reached the target percentage, but we are getting there.)

The Philippines hit the bottom of Bloomberg's COVID-19 resilience rankings for September, in a steady slide down the study involving 53 countries and territories across the globe.

This, after the Philippines scored low on all four of Bloomberg's metrics for reopening, being among the lowest in vaccine coverage, among the most stringent in lockdowns, among the lowest in flight capacity, and among the lowest in COVID-19 containment.

In an article accompanying the report, Bloomberg said the Philippines "faces a perfect storm" of the Delta variant coupled with "inadequate" testing and lockdowns that have disrupted the economy and people’s livelihoods.

Bloomberg pointed out that testing and contact tracing remain slow, with the small number of tests conducted resulting in a one-in-four or 27% positive result.


On Friday, the DOH has defended the government’s policy of risk-based screening for COVID-19 amid criticism that the country was still not testing enough.

Malacañang also downplayed the report, saying the Bloomberg report did not include all the countries in the world.

The Palace also blamed vaccine inequality between wealthy and developing countries for the Philippines' dismal ranking in the said report.

Alert level system

Meanwhile, interviewed at the Laging Handa briefing, Vergeire said on Saturday the DOH has yet to see the correlation between the alert level system and the recent decline in COVID-19 cases.

"We cannot really attribute the decline of COVID-19 cases solely to the shift in policy (alert level system). It may be that other effects of the MECQ and ECQ implemented last month were included in the recent effects in the decline in cases," Vergeire said.

"Secondly, we could not yet confirm whether the decline in cases is artificial or is truly a decreasing trend. We are still completing the data regarding the factors that may have affected the decrease in laboratory outputs in the past days," she added.

However, Vergeire said the hospital utilization rate in NCR has yet to improve, with the ICU utilization at 76%.

Further, the average daily attack rate of some NCR areas is at moderate. The ADAR refers to the percentage of population that contracts the disease.

"Kailangan pa rin nating bantayan. Hindi po tayo puwedeng magbitaw muna sa ganitong alert level. Kailangan pa rin kasi nating maging cautious because hospitals are still full," Vergeire said.

(We still need to keep an eye on it. We could still not let go of this kind of alert level. We need to be cautious because hospitals are still full.) —KG, GMA News