Roque hits back at critics of gov’t response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Published July 19, 2020, 6:52 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government will remain vigilant and work “round the clock” to further enhance the country’s testing, tracing and treatment efforts while gradually opening the economy, Malacañang said Sunday in the wake of criticisms of allegedly mishandling of the pandemic response.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government previously took the “bitter pill” of choosing public health over economic activities when it implemented a strict lockdown that helped save thousands of lives.

The latest increase in the country’s recovery rate as well as the decline in fatality rate however should “not lull us to a false sense of security but instead make us work double time” in enhancing efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, according to Roque. 

“The Administration continues to be vigilant and work round the clock through its departments and line agencies as part of our whole-of-government approach, partnering with the local government units and the private sector, in enforcing health protocols and improving our testing, tracing, isolation and treatment while gradually opening the economy,” he said.

Roque made the latest statement after hitting back at critics of the government’s efforts to address the public health emergency. Concerns have been raised over the country’s soaring cases of infections in recent weeks despite the government’s lockdown measures. 

As of July 19, the country has recorded 67,456 cases of coronavirus with 1,831 deaths and 22,465 recoveries.

Roque, in the same statement, found unfortunate that some sectors could not supposedly see “the forest for the trees when they cite the cumulative number of cases and blatantly ignore the rest of the COVID-19 data.”

If the government had not acted decisively, he pointed out the country would have more than 3 million cases as predicted by the University of the Philippines (UP).

“The community quarantine that the Administration imposed has helped us improve our health system capacity, and in turn, save thousands of lives at a huge cost to our economy. We earlier took the bitter pill of choosing health above economic activities,” he said.

Roque also attributed the latest increase in COVID-19 infection rate to the government’s “aggressive testing” efforts. 

“The sad reality is that the virus is not going away easily until we develop a vaccine or find a cure,” he said.

“It is for this reason that the government is serious in looking at science in making decisions, such as the country’s case doubling rate, or the number of days it takes for cases to double, the utilization of critical care facilities and the case fatality rate which now stands at 2.7% which is far lower than the global average of 5.5%, as of July 19, 2020,” he said.

Although he welcomed the “sharp decline” in the number of deaths, Roque offered the government’s sympathy to the families who lost their loved ones due to the illness. to the families. 

“We believe that one life lost is one too many and that these numbers will not lull us to a false sense of security but instead make us work double time in improving our response against COVID-19,” he said.

President Duterte has placed most of the country under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the least stringent lockdown level imposed by the government, until the end of the month.

Cebu City shifted to the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) while Metro Manila stayed on general community quarantine (GCQ).  Other areas under GCQ are Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Zamboanga City, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Basilan, Talisay City and municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu province.

Although the quarantine measures have been eased, the government has repeatedly reminded the public to observe health protocols such as staying indoors if possible, wearing of mask, and safe distancing from others. Local government units have also been empowered to implement localized lockdowns to curb the transmission in their communities.

The government implemented stringent lockdown over the entire Luzon back in mid-March but gradually relaxed the quarantine classification of various places by May.

The strict lockdown, that included restrictions on public transportation, large gatherings, travel, and work operations, has weakened the economy, shut down many companies, and left thousands of Filipinos jobless.