File photo shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
MANILA, Philippines — Exactly half a year into the coronavirus-induced community quarantines in the country, the Palace thinks the government has the “best testing policy in Asia” for which it deserves a “very good grade,” it said Tuesday.
“All in all, I think we deserve a very good grade, I would give it a grade of 85%,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a virtual briefing on the 182nd day of quarantine, pointing to the country’s testing capabilities.
“We clearly have the best testing policy in the whole of Asia and probably in the whole world because we have exceeded 3 million. As a percentage of total whole population, we definitely have 3% of the population that should be tested,” Roque, who once claimed that mass testing meant testing everyone in the country, said.
The numbers do not seem to back this up.
While government officials continue to flaunt the country’s high testing capacity, its contact tracing efforts continue to be lackluster, something no less than the World Health Organization pointed out as early as May. Only on September 14 did the interior department begin hiring additional contact tracers to reach its target of 150,000 personnel, a goal it has had since June.
“We have to brush up on our tracing. Now that we’ve approved the ‘Bayanihan 2’, and we will have P5 billion alloted for additional tracers, the way I see it, we will have major inroads and successes using also the Magalong formula,” Roque also said.
With its national caseload of 269,407 infections as of the health department’s latest update, the country still has the highest coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, and the second-highest number of deaths. The Philippines is still under the world’s longest quarantine.
Despite this, the Palace spokesperson saw fit to downplay the coronavirus situation once more, pointing out that the country’s health system still had 50% capacity for intensive care unit beds and 74% available ventilators, which he used to justify his claim the health system was “not overwhelmed.”
Just a month ago, medical collectives released a manifesto calling for an enhanced community quarantine to allow the health sector a “time-out” amid the overwhelmed health system.
In the past, Roque told the public not to have the “wrong view” that the coronavirus situation is bad because other countries are going through it, too, and things could be worse. He added then that it should be expected for circumstances to be bad because everyone is struggling.
Earlier in August, he also lauded Filipinos for their resilience after they managed to keep joblessness at 45% instead of 100% despite a long-winding coronavirus-induced lockdown.
— Franco Luna