MANILA: The Philippines recorded its highest mortality rate in over six decades in 2021, with heart disease and COVID-19 responsible for most of the deaths, the Commission on Population and Development said on Wednesday.
The Philippines, a country of 110 million people, recorded over 768,500 deaths between January and mid-November 2021, showing a 25 percent increase in mortality from 2020.
As the commission is still processing the remaining data from November and December, its executive director, Dr. Juan A. Perez, estimated last year’s deaths would top 800,000.
“In 2019 and 2020, the mortality rate was about the same at 5.8 per 1,000 Filipinos. By the end of 2021, I believe it reached 7.5 or 8 per 1,000,” Perez said in a statement, adding that 2021 saw “the highest number of Filipinos dying in a single year.”
The last time the Philippines’ recorded mortality rates as high as last year was between 1958 and 1959, where it reached between 7.3 and 8.4 deaths per 1,000 people.
The country’s biggest killer was coronary heart disease — the top cause of death worldwide — followed by COVID-19, which was responsible for 110,332 deaths up to October 2021, from 86,164 the previous year.
Dr. Perez said there are two kinds of COVID-19 affecting the country: COVID-19 “identified,” with cases confirmed through PCR screening, and COVID-19 “unidentified,” with clinical findings indicative of the disease, but without a confirmatory test up to the time of death. In both situations, COVID-19 is considered the cause of death, in accordance with methods accepted by the World Health Organization to report the disease.
The country’s increasing mortality rate is indicative of a health system “severely challenged by the pandemic and its consequences,” Perez added, as hospitals are “heavily burdened” handling COVID-19 cases, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment of other diseases.
“The challenge to the Philippine health system is both acute and unprecedented,” he said. “Local health systems would need to be augmented by additional investments in health systems capacity and its resilience to respond to acute health crises.”