Was the Philippines ‘excellent’ in controlling COVID-19 spread? Here’s what numbers say

March 9, 2021 - 2:28 PM
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Women avail of the free MRT ride at the MRT North Ave Station in Quezon City on Mondsy, March 8, 2021 in celebration of National Women's Month. (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

The national government continued to claim a successful response to the deadly coronavirus response despite statistics that tell otherwise.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque maintained that the Philippines is “excellent” in containing the virus which contains COVID-19 as compared to the United States.

Roque made this claim in a briefing on Monday after a PTV4 reporter sought for his comment on the government’s response efforts ahead of the country’s quarantine anniversary.

In the briefing, the Palace spokesman asserted that nearly a year into the health crisis, the government managed to control the transmissions.

“We were excellent. Na-control po natin ang pagkalat ng sakit lalung-lalo na kung ikukumpara tayo sa mas mayayaman at mga bansa na mas mararami at mas moderno ang mga ospital,” he said.

“Hindi po tayo nasa top five, hindi po tayo nasa 10, hindi po tayo nasa top 15, hindi tayo nasa top 20, hindi tayo nasa top 25. Ngayon po tumaas tayo ng isa, dati 31 o 32 tayo, ngayon number 30,” the official added.

Roque also compared the Philippines’ situation to the US and the United Kingdom.

So far, the US still has the highest COVID-19 transmissions in the world with more than 28,600,000 and 1,676 deaths.

In the UK, confirmed cases have reached four million and the death toll is at 124,566.

“Can you imagine, America is number one in terms of cases and in terms of death? Eh wala naman sa kalingkingan nila ang ating level of spending for health at saka iyong ating technology sa ating mga hospital wala rin sa kalingkingan nila ‘no. But we managed very well, that is what I meant ‘no. Huwag na naman natin baligtarin ‘yan ‘no,” he said.

The Philippines is, however, not faring better compared to other developing countries and neighbors in Southeast Asia.

What data says

The Department of Health reported more than 3,300 new confirmed cases last Monday which brings the total cases to 597,763.

It was also the fourth straight day with more than 3,000 new infections.

There are a total of 545, 912 and death toll stands at 12,521.

In comparison to neighboring countries, the World Health Organization-Western Pacific region reported that the Philippines still has the highest new cases in the last 72 hours.

The top three are: the Philippines with 9,745, Malaysia with 5,517 and Japan with 3,264.

Several studies have also ranked the country as among the lowest or poorest in terms of suppressing the pandemic.

In January, Sidney-based think tank Lowy Institute placed the Philippines at 79th out of 98 with a score of 30.6%, lagging behind some Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of COVID-19 response.

Last month, ASEAN Studies Center’s “The State of Southeast Asia 2021 survey report” also bared that a majority or 53.7% of its Filipino respondents disapproved of the Duterte administration’s handling of the public health crisis.

READ: Philippines has lowest-rated COVID-19 response in ASEAN and some are not surprised

Meanwhile, the government’s stringent lockdown measures or the quarantine phases are also considered the longest in the region.

The shutdown of businesses and loss of livelihood across the country contributed to the economy entering into the worst recession since 1981.

How the public reacted

Dr. Gene Nisperos of the University of the Philippines, meanwhile, juxtaposed Roque’s latest remark with a similar view from Dr. Edsel Salvana who is part of the DOH’s Technical Advisory Group.

Nisperos posted a screenshot of a social media report with Roque’s claim next to a snapshot of Salvana’s tweet in February 2020, which was before the cases increased drastically.

“Everyone is on high alert. We contained this. You naysayers won’t be content with what’s in front of you. That’s your problem not ours. We saved your butt. You’re welcome,” Salvana claimed.

Other Filipinos poked fun at Roque’s remark and quipped that the appointed official might be living in another location.

“I am convinced there is another Philippines,” one user said.

“Nasa ibang planeta yata ‘to,” another user wrote.