‘Never mind number of deaths?’: Duque slammed for optimistic view at Philippines’ above 1 million COVID-19 cases

April 27, 2021 - 6:49 PM
Francisco Duque in IATF meeting
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte confers with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on June 4, 2020. (PCOO/Robinson Niñal Jr.)

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III viewed the alarming one million recorded cases in the country as a chance to reach a million recoveries.

Duque’s optimism was not welcomed by online users who perceived the million cases as a sign of government incompetence.

The country surpassed the one-millionth mark on Monday, April 26 after 8,929 new infections were recorded, which brought the total to 1,006,428.

As of April 27, the new tally is at 1,013,618 COVID-19 cases. Of these, 925,027 are recoveries; 71,675 are active cases and 16,916 are deaths.

Despite the staggering figures, in an interview with CNN Philippines on the same day, Duque said the public can look at it with a more “optimistic lens.”

“The one million cases can be viewed also from a different angle that this will sooner or later bring in a million recoveries. We need to look at it from a more optimistic lens of getting a high recovery rate of more than 90%,” Duque said.

Duque then admitted that there are lapses in the government’s pandemic response. However, he remained hopeful that the situation will improve.

“We need to focus as a nation how we can further improve our pandemic response, there are always ways to do things better. I’m not saying we are successful. There are opportunities which we grab each time to do things better,” the health secretary said.

“What’s important now is we continue to see that in the active cases of 74,000, 96% are mild or asymptomatic and severe to critical is at 1%,” he added.

Unwelcome optimism

Social media users criticized Duque anew following his remark perceived to be optimistic. They said that such perspective dismissed the lives lost who are part of the “one million” tally.

His name “Duque” was among the trending topics on Twitter Philippines on Tuesday afternoon.

“Never mind the number of deaths? Never mind the millions of jobs lost? Never mind the continuing collective trauma from incompetent and corrupt handling of the pandemic?” wrote sociology instructor Ash Presto.

“Looking at it from another angle, that’s one million people who should’ve been living healthily (some even should be alive),” another user said.

Other users, meanwhile, perceived the situation as proof of the government’s failure to handle the health crisis.

“Let’s look at it in a ‘palpak government’ angle. There’s really no other way of looking at it,” one user said.

“Duque’s optimism is deadlier than COVID-19,” another said.

In the same interview with CNN, Duque was asked about their latest actions concerning B.1.617 coronavirus variant which reportedly came from India.

The health secretary said that the coronavirus variant is still “under investigation.”

“The Philippine Genome Center has not reported to the IATF whether this has evolved to become a variant of concern. This is still considered a variant under investigation,” Duque said.

There is also still no ban on overseas Filipino workers returning from India despite other countries having issued their respective travel restrictions to preempt transmissions.

“There’s no (ban) on our OFWs because the policy on returning OFWs upon the directive of the President, they must be allowed to travel back home,” he said.

Among the countries that issued travel ban on flights coming from India include the United States, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

RELATED: Hong Kong bans flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for 2 weeks