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COVID-19 in charts: Where does PH stand in ASEAN, world?

It's been nearly a year since COVID-19 first struck the Philippines. Total cases in the country have breached 513,000 as of January 24.

With thousands of cases still added to our caseload daily, how are we faring in the fight against the virus compared to our neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as the world?

2nd in ASEAN

For two months, the Philippines was the country in Southeast Asia with the most number of COVID-19 cases – from August 6, when it overtook Indonesia, until October 15. As of January 24, Indonesia is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus among ASEAN members.

In the line chart below, switch between the normal and logarithmic scales of the coronavirus cases of each ASEAN member country every day since January 2020.

Compared to the normal scale, the logarithmic scale skews the vertical axis (or y-axis) to show whether total cases in a country have grown exponentially compared to others.

For instance, Myanmar's line shot up faster in late August, then steadied but still with a high number of daily new cases around mid-October. Myanmar overtook Singapore in early November, then Malaysia followed suit later that month. Malaysia then surpassed Myanmar's total cases in early January.

In all line charts in this story, the line for the Philippines is colored orange.

Looking at the 7-day average of COVID-19 cases added to countries' tallies daily, as seen in the chart below, new confirmed infections in the Philippines started to go down in mid-October, dropping below 2,000 in the third week of that month.

Then in January, after the holiday break, the 7-day average started to rise again.

Before this, it had hovered around 2,500 in late September and the first half of October. The Philippines earlier saw high daily cases in August, then a spike in new cases in mid-September.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's 7-day average was above 2,500 going into September, peaking at more than 4,000 even before that month ended. Its average had dipped in end-October, but it went above 4,000 again around two weeks later, then continued going up, reaching new peaks well into January.

Malaysia's average has continued to climb since a new wave of cases started there in October. In late December, Myanmar's average dipped below 1,000, while Thailand saw a fresh outbreak in some clusters in the country.

A 7-day average is used to smooth out sudden or erratic changes in daily new cases.

Another way to assess the impact of COVID-19 worldwide is by looking at the number of cases per 1 million people, to account for the different population sizes of each nation. Doing a per-capita computation like this makes the countries more comparable to each other.

By this metric, the Philippines now places 3rd in ASEAN, behind Singapore and Malaysia, in terms of total cases per 1 million people. Malaysia pushed ahead of the Philippines on January 14 due to a wave of new cases.

Indonesia now leads in deaths per 1 million people, surpassing the Philippines on January 7. As for active cases per capita, the Philippines ranks 3rd behind Malaysia and Indonesia as of January 24.

Focusing on the status of COVID-19 cases, the Philippines ranks 4th to last, so far, in Southeast Asia in terms of the percentage of active cases, following Brunei, Singapore, and Laos.

The Philippines currently places 4th in terms of case fatality rate – or the share of all coronavirus cases that resulted in deaths – behind Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

Place your cursor on the bars below to see the percentage values for the status of COVID-19 cases per country.

Out of top 30 worldwide

For almost the entire October, the Philippines was among the top 20 countries with the most COVID-19 cases.

On October 1, the Philippines became part of the top 20 out of about 214 countries and territories worldwide. The country breached 314,000 cases, overtaking Pakistan.

Less than a week later, on October 7, the Philippines placed 19th, as it overtook Turkey when its total cases topped 329,000. A few days later, on October 11, the country inched up one notch to 18th place after it logged over 339,000 cases, surpassing Saudi Arabia.

Then Indonesia and Germany bumped the Philippines back to 20th place on October 15. On that day, the Philippines had more than 348,000 cases. (Germany's figure is based on sources cited by various websites tracking COVID-19 data. But if official numbers from Germany are used, its total cases formally overtook the Philippines' caseload on October 17.)

Two weeks after that, on October 29, Ukraine bumped the Philippines out of the top 20. The Philippines had nearly 377,000 cases at that point. Ukraine and other European countries like Italy, Germany, and Belgium are experiencing a steep wave of new cases.

On January 10, 2021, the Philippines was off the top 30, after new cases in Israel pushed the country down along with Sweden.

In succeeding charts below, see how the Philippines compares with select countries adjacent to it in the world rankings as of January 24, according to data from worldometers.info. You may again switch between normal and logarithmic scales in the chart below.

While the Philippines (in 32nd place) has been seeing recent upticks in the average daily increase of COVID-19 cases, it has been slowing down in Iraq (27th) and Saudi Arabia (37th) and steadily going up in Indonesia (19th). Turkey (9th), Canada (22nd), Pakistan (30th), and Bangladesh (31st) appear to be recovering from recent surges.

Notice also the spike of new cases that started around October in many European countries. As of January 24, the 7-day average for the Netherlands (20th) and the Czech Republic (21st) are going down again after a fresh spike, while those for Italy (8th), Germany (10th), Poland (14th), Ukraine (17th), Romania (23rd), and Belgium (25th) are on a downturn.

Here's a look at the per-capita figures among these countries.

Worldwide, the Philippines is near the middle of the pack, so far, in terms of total cases per 1 million population, ranking 126th out of 219 countries tracked by worldometers.info.

Meanwhile, looking at deaths per 1 million people, the Philippines is likewise near the middle, at 111th place so far, out of 201 countries with recorded deaths.

In terms of the status of all cases among these select nations, the Philippines' rate of active cases stands at around 5%, higher than Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iraq, but lower than the rest in the list.

Meanwhile, the Philippines' 1.99% case fatality rate (CFR) is a bit higher than that of 5 countries in the list.

Still, this is below the global CFR of 2.17%, based on figures from the World Health Organization as of January 24. Seven countries in the list have CFRs higher than the global rate.

The Philippine Department of Health continues to urge Filipinos to keep following health protocols, even if the country is seeing a downward trend in COVID-19 cases.

Independent research group Octa cautioned the government in October against "prematurely downgrading the quarantine status" in high-risk areas," especially in pandemic epicenter Metro Manila.

An early easing of quarantine measures in these areas, Octa said, "may lead to exponential growth in the number of cases and deaths apart from overwhelming our health care system" and would "seriously compromise" efforts to contain the virus. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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