‘Lives are at stake’: Roque hit for saying Metro Manila is ‘living experiment’ in gov’t COVID-19 response

July 29, 2020 - 5:04 PM
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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)

The Palace said that Metro Manila “will be a living experiment” in terms of the government’s response towards COVID-19 as cases reached the eightieth thousand mark of total count early this week.

In a televised interview, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque was asked if there was a big chance that the National Capital Region, which has been topping the list of regions with new cases, would be reverted to the stricter quarantine phase, modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

“Metro Manila will be a living experiment and it’s an experiment that we believe we can be successful at, and it will be something that we can be proud of,” the Palace official said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ “The Source.”

Roque refused to give a straight answer in the interview but added that there are two “criteria” involved when considering the quarantine phase changes—the case doubling rate and the critical care capacity.

Case doubling rate refers to “the number of days it takes for the number of cases, hospitalizations, or deaths to double,” according to infectious diseases and clinical pharmacology expert Dr. Benjamin Co.

Roque said that the NCR’s case doubling rate is “fine” at 8.9% but the critical care capacity, which refers to isolation beds and wards for COVID-19 patients, is the “problem.”

“We actually improved because the higher the case doubling rate is, the longer ‘no, is the better. But as you mentioned, it’s critical care capacity that’s the problem ‘no because ICU beds, we have reached mga around—as you said, around 80% ‘no,” the presidential spokesman said.

The Department of Health on Tuesday reported that the occupancy rate of Metro Manila in terms of ICU beds was already at 73% or in “danger zone” as of July 26.

Meanwhile, the occupancy for both coronavirus and non-coronavirus beds nationwide is at “warning zone” already.

Major hospitals in the NCR have begun declaring full capacity for treating COVID-19 patients this month, including the Philippine General HospitalSt. Luke’s Medical Center and the Asian Hospital and Medical Center.

Metro Manila is currently under general community quarantine which has been imposed since June 1.

‘Sound plan’ needed 

Roque’s remarks on NCR being under a “living experiment” did not amuse some Filipinos who argued that lives are currently at stake in an ongoing pandemic. They stressed that a “sound plan” is needed during these times.

“Waking up every morning wondering when this gov’t will realize that these statistics aren’t just mere numbers but are/were actual, living, and breathing humans fending for themselves and their loved ones,” wrote a Twitter user in response to the Palace official’s remarks.

“AN EXPERIMENT WHERE LIVES ARE AT STAKE? This is how our government treats us—consistently with no regard to life, seeing statistics as merely numbers,” noted a physician.

A lawyer urged the government to “come up with a sound plan” rather than treat the Filipinos as “lab rats.”

“We are humans, not lab rats. This is a city, not a research facility. For heaven’s sake, please come up with a sound plan and let’s do it together. Stop trying to ride it out. No more winging it,” lawyer Jong de Guzman said.

Another Twitter user recalled Roque’s previous remarks when the country breached the seventy thousandth mark of total COVID-19 cases.

From ‘NOT ALARMING’ to ‘LIVING EXPERIMENT’ how bad can this administration be? @attyharryroque (Harry Roque) do you still have (the) worst plan hiding in your sleeves than this?” he wrote.

Roque was previously hit for “downplaying” the number of total COVID-19 cases and the low fatality rate of the country despite reports of medical frontliners feeling “demoralized” already.

RELATED: ‘Hindi kakaunti ‘yan’: Harry Roque told to stop ‘downplaying’ high number of COVID-19 cases, death counts

ABS-CBN News cited nursing support and patient services assistant director Daryl Gaba of the Makati Medical Center who said the following in an online forum:

“The daily surge of infected individuals is now overwhelming our exhausted workforce, decreasing in number, and left short on essential support.”

“Statistics and graphs may give us easy decision points on a national governance level; but think of the experiences of Filipino nurses, each digit is a soul that matters—a brave frontliner who also needs to be rescued.”

Roque was also earlier criticized for saying that the breach of the seventy thousandth mark in total case count was not something to be alarmed about amid hospitals declaring full capacity in wards dedicated to COVID-19 patients.

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

Meanwhile, Filipinos on Monday had expected President Rodrigo Duterte to lay out the government’s COVID-19 recovery plan in his State of the Nation Address, as earlier reported. However, the president was criticized for his perceived failure to detail out the clear parameters.

“There is still no clear COVID-19 response plan that addresses urgent issues such as rising cases, inadequate mass testing and strained hospitals and health workers. Amid the biggest health crisis we are facing, ironically, little has been said on the medical response,” Rep. Manuel Cabochan III (Magdalo party-list) said in a statement.

Philstar.com reported that Duterte failed to mention “what happens next in the wake of the worsening coronavirus pandemic” in his highly-anticipated SONA.

The Palace rebutted that the critics might be “deaf” and added that the recovery “roadmap” was tackled by Cabinet members in pre-SONA briefings.

“We have a new format for the SONA. We now have pre-SONA (briefings), where secretaries of different agencies talk about details. The President just talked about direction and broad strokes and did not go into details,” Roque said.

Duterte is expected to announce new quarantine measures on July 30, Thursday which would take effect on August 1, Saturday.