By ARNOLD PADILLA
For two straight days, the Philippines posted record highs in daily new COVID-19 cases. The DOH reported March 20 that the country registered 7,999 cases, breaking the previous all-time high of 7,103 monitored just a day before.
The surge in new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines is the second worst in Southeast Asia. Based on data compiled by the Economist, the Philippines registered 78 confirmed new cases per 100,000 people in the past 28 days as of March 20. That puts the country behind Malaysia which had 166 new cases per 100,000. Indonesia ranked third with 70 confirmed cases.
But what is even more alarming for Filipinos is that amid the surge in new COVID-19 cases, the response of the Duterte government to the pandemic more than a year into the crisis remains grossly inadequate and incompetent. While implementing the strictest and longest lockdown in the region, the Philippines continues to lag behind our neighbors in Southeast Asia in actually responding to the pandemic.
To illustrate, Malaysia, which has the worst surge in new cases over the past month, has been providing more than 97 vaccinations per day per 100,000 people. The Philippines, on the contrary, is providing only 23 per day per 100,000 people. Indonesia, which has a comparable intensity of surge in new cases with the Philippines, is way ahead in terms of vaccination as it administers 139 vaccinations per day per 100,000 people.
We are lagging behind even the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The Philippine economy is about 14 times the size of the Cambodian economy but the latter is providing six times the number of vaccinations per 100,000 people than the Philippines.
As of today, only 0.3% of the Philippine adult population has at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine – the worst among Southeast Asian countries with high levels of cases. Poorer neighbors like Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos have even much better vaccination numbers.