20th in the World and the data of 08.29.2021

It was a shocker week. With record highs, the Philippines now overtakes the Netherlands to sit on the 20th spot in terms of most number of cases of COVID19 in the world. However, per capita (cases per million population, yes we need to consider the fact that not all countries have the same population), the Philippines ranks number 128 in the world with 17,397 cases/Million population. The Netherlands is a country with a population of 17.5M. It’s COVID cases per capita is 112,598 cases/Million population or almost 8 times that of the Philippines.

The Health Agency today reports 18,528 new cases. The active cases are up at more than 143,000.

On August 27, there were more than 66,000 tests done with a positivity rate of 27.9%.

Additional 101 deaths were announced today and the case fatality ratio for outcomes is steady at 1.84%.

While NCR stayed in the lead, it was CALABARZON that is seeing rising cases compared to previous surges. The NCR plus bubble owned more than 11,000 of the 18000 plus cases today.

Cavite and Laguna continue to pour in the cases on a provincial level.

Ten of 17 LGUs in NCR land in the top 20, while increases LGUs in Region IVA – 5 in Cavite and 1 in Laguna – are among the top 20 list.

THE WEEK IN REVIEW

The country sees an upward trajectory in cases, and deaths as it hits all time highs in number of daily new cases for COVID-19. On August 28, it marked an all time high of close to 20,000 cases since the pandemic began. But that isn’t the bothersome news alone. Almost 2/3 of the cases are found in three regions – National Capital Region, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon. This triumvirate is otherwise called the NCR plus bubble. Both Regions IVA and III are annexed to the epicenter, Mega Manila. While there is a large population in the capital of the Philippines, those who live in the NCR know that there is literally a hairline that separates the boundaries of this region from that of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan. Many of those who come to work in NCR have established suburban homes in these contiguous regions.

While there are more tests being done, with the last few days exceeding 70,000 tests/day, the positivity rate continued to climb. On Aug 28, it recorded the highest positivity rate for tests done on August 26 – 27.5%. This is alarming because most of the patients that do get tested are mostly those who are symptomatic or hospitalized. Because testing is out-of-the-pocket in the country, many (if not most) will not get tested (lest more quarantined( even when they are exposed to close contacts. The vicious cycle of under testing, inability to do adequate tracing end up with people who need to be in quarantine, squandering in the streets.

On a regional basis, note how these countries are faring against each other in the 7-day average cases. While Japan leads, in the the 7-day average, it is noteworthy that Singapore is seeing a rise in its cases as well. While it only reports a 7-day average of 75 cases, this is a small country with 5.9Million people. Based on per capita, Singapore actually has 11,378 cases/M population compared to say, Japan, with a population of 126Million and a per capita of 11,199 cases/M population. Smaller nations like Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand, etc. cannot afford tiny increments of cases. To have these nations have equal number of daily cases as in the Philippines or Indonesia, would totally decimate the healthcare system of the countries.

In the interpretation of how well the country is doing, one should focus on the effective reproduction number. Reproduction numbers tell you how well the pandemic is being handled and how the virus has vastly spread in the country. Notice the sudden fluctuation in R for Singapore. Among Asian countries, it is now up at 1.32. Indonesia, the erstwhile leader during the delta surge has managed to bring down its cases and sustained it remarkably for the last month. Its R is down at 0.7. If the R of the Philippine stays on course, we will continue to see increasing numbers but a slowing down in the rise. Nevertheless, it is still bad news because a steady R means that we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. And the possibility that this could go up, rather than take a downward trajectory is not remote.

Summarized below is the vaccination rate (first and full doses) of many countries and the variants that are circulating. The Philippines has around 16% of the population fully vaccinated. And while that is better than the data of Taiwan that has only 3.6% of its population vaccinated, it still needs to play catch-up compared to our ASEAN neighbors whose vaccination rates have accelerated over the past weeks, including the administration of ‘booster’ vaccines to front line workers who initially received inactivated COVID-19 vaccines as well. Cambodia, a country of 17M people and with a GDP of $4000 as of 2017, has already vaccinated more than 60% of its population. This compared to the Philippines with a GDP more than twice that of Cambodia, with vaccine coverage of 20% of its population.

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