For Harry Roque, the more than 70K COVID-19 cases is not ‘alarming.’ But it is for some Filipinos.

July 23, 2020 - 3:12 PM
Harry Roque in press con
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque during his press briefing in this photo uploaded on his official Facebook page on May 12, 2020. (Photo from Harry Roque via Facebook)

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque remarked that the breach of the seventy thousandth mark of total COVID-19 cases in the country this week was not “alarming” despite hospitals declaring full capacity for coronavirus wards.

The Palace official appeared in a CNN Philippines interview on Wednesday where broadcast journalist Pinky Webb mentioned that there was an “almost 2,000” breach of cases reported on Tuesday.

“UP has predicted that this will reach by about 85,000 by the end of July 31. Sir, is this something that we should be alarmed? Because if we continue this trend, sir, 1,500, 1,800 definitely po aabot tayo dito sa 85,000 by end of July,” she said.

Experts from the University of the Philippines last week predicted that the number of COVID-19 cases may reach more than 85,000 by the end of July.

It was based on the assumption that the virus’ current reproduction number would remain and if government interventions will not significantly change.

“Well, I wouldn’t pretty say it’s something alarming, but it should concern all of us ‘no,” Roque told Webb.

Local news outlets took note of the spokesperson’s response about the breach of COVID-19 cases and presented it on social media which caught some Filipinos’ attention.

“Palace: 70k COVID-19 cases not alarming but should concern all,” Manila Bulletin reported.

The “not alarming” phrase reached the top trending list of local Twitter on Thursday morning as some Filipinos argued that Roque’s remarks were an “insult” to medical frontliners and workers who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s remarks on the surge of COVID-19 cases as it breached the 70k mark trends on Twitter Philippines on Thursday morning. (Screengrab by Interaksyon)

“How is 70k not alarming? Ang laking insulto nito to the frontliners who have been working for months long already, to those who have lost their income, to those who cannot afford online classes, to everyone in this country that deserves a better & competent government,” a Twitter user wrote.

The comment has earned 4,900 likes and 2,400 retweets on the microblogging platform.

“So when will you be alarmed? When all of us are all dying with the hands of the people who don’t even know how to lead a country?” commented another online user.

A Filipino pointed out that it might not have been alarming if the country had less than a thousand cases of COVID-19 infections.

“NOT ALARMING? At first it’s just a number of 130 but everyone went panic already and now there’s 70k?! Everyone who’s been going out for work is already at risk. Tapos wala pang maaasahan sa gobyerno. Nahihirapan na ang frontliners sa patuloy na pagtaas pero not alarming pa rin,” the online user said.

A physician retweeted a news report of Philippine General Hospital announcing that it has surpassed its limit on the number of admitted COVID-19 patients on Thursday.

“Keep in mind that the previous capacity was 130. Still not alarming enough, Philippines?” physician Jai Cabajar wrote in response to Roque.

PGH, a state-run hospital, reported that its intensive care unit (ICU) was already “in full capacity.”

PGH spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario said that they could only accept “moderate cases (of COVID-19) at this time.”

He added that 221 COVID-19 patients are currently admitted at the hospital despite the 210 limit. Most of the admitted ones are senior citizens, among the most vulnerable to the viral disease.

Last week, the Department of Health reported that the National Capital Region has reached the “danger zone” in terms of bed capacity for COVID-19 patients while four other regions were already in the “warning zone.”

These are the hospitals in Central Visayas, Calabarzon, Davao Region and Central Luzon.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that a “warning zone” indicates a “trigger point to signal” that the demand for COVID-19 beds is on the rise.

The department reportedly said that the lack of hospital beds could be addressed if hospitals follow the guidelines that 30% of their beds be reserved for COVID-19 patients.