For Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine government did ‘better’ in fighting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) compared to other countries–an apparent downgrade from the earlier assessment of Presidential spokesman Harry Roque who boldly declared that the country was excellent in pandemic response.
Lorenzana’s personal assessment appeared to be in contradiction with the recent events wherein enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented again in Metro Manila and four adjacent provinces due to what health experts described as an alarming upsurge of COVID-19 cases. On Monday, March 29, the Philippines recorded its highest reported cases in a day with more than 10,000 cases.
Early this year, the Philippines was reported to be lagging behind the pandemic response based on the assessment of Australian think tank LOwy Institute–the Philippines ranked 79th out of 98 countries.
But Lorenzana, who also serves as the chairman of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, insisted that the government did well in the pandemic response under the guidance of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), the country’s policy-making body in the pandemic response.
“I think we did the best we can and I think all that we have done was based according to what the IATF has decided. The IATF is a collegial body and we discuss a lot of things before we decide on a resolution. Looking back, I think we did better than a lot of countries,” he said in a television interview over CNN Philippines.
Interestingly, Lorenzana made the remark hours before the country recorded its biggest single-day COVID-19 tally with 10,016 new infections on Monday. It pushed the total number of cases to 731,894 with 603,213 people already recovered (82.4 percent) while 13,186 have died (1.80 percent).
President Duterte approved over the weekend the recommendation of the IATF to place NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under a week-long ECQ from March 29 to April 4 to contain the fast rising COVID-19 infections.
But Lorenzana said the situation is still manageable compared to other nations which record over 30,000 new cases per day. He did not identify which countries have more than 30,000 cases daily.
After justifying the government’s performance by comparing it to countries with more than 30,000 new cases, Lorenzana contradicted himself as he urged critics not to liken the local situation to nations with smaller COVID-19 cases such as New Zealand and Denmark.
“Let us not compare ourselves to small countries like New Zealand or Denmark,” he said.
Lorenzana claimed that New Zealand has a population of about 2.5 million while Denmark has 10 million people “so we cannot compare it to our population.”
According to the World Bank and EuroStat, New Zealand and Denmark indeed have lower populations of 4.9 million and 5.8 million, respectively, in 2019 compared to the Philippines’ 108 million. The Philippines’ population grew to 110 million in 2020, according to the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM).
Lorenzana claimed that the COVID-19 death toll of New Zealand and Denmark were just the same compared to the Philippines.
“The population in Manila alone is as big as Denmark’s. So for those questioning why these countries are not on lockdown, take a look at their death toll. It is just the same as us,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Health of New Zealand, their country has a total of 2,137 confirmed cases, of which, 86 remained as active cases or those who have yet to recover; more than 2,000 have already been healed; and around 20 people have died. The data were as of March 29, 2021.
Meanwhile, Denmark has a total of 227,049 cases where 2,413 people have perished as of March 28.
To address the rising number of infections, Lorenzana admitted that the government needs to step up and intensify its testing, contact tracing, and treatment strategies.