Palace says gov't not to blame for COVID-19 surge, a year into quarantine

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2021 05:40 PM | Updated as of Mar 15 2021 08:53 PM

Authorities 'could do better' with contact-tracing, Malacañang concedes 

Palace says gov't not to blame for COVID-19 surge, a year into quarantine 1
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Port Operations Building at the Port of Dumaguete in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental on March 11, 2021. Rey Baniquet, Presidential Photo

MANILA — Malacañang said on Monday the government was not to blame for the surge in coronavirus infections, as the Philippine marked the first year of its pandemic lockdown. 

The Philippines on Saturday reported its largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases in more than 6 months and its first case of the highly contagious variant first identified in Brazil. The health department earlier detected COVID-19 variants from Britain and South Africa.

“Iyong kumpirmasyon na nasa Pilipinas na iyong mga bagong variants at itong mga bagong variants ay mas nakakahawa, ito’y isa sa mga dahilan ng surge—hindi po dahil palpak ang gobyerno,” said Palace spokesman Harry Roque, who also recently tested positive for the virus. 

(The confirmation that the new variants are in the Philippines and that new variants are more contagious, this is one of the reasons for the surge—and not because the government is sloppy.)

The hashtag #DutertePalpak or “sloppy” trended over the weekend.
 
The Philippines now has 229 coronavirus testing labs, up from only one facility early last year. Authorities have set up 10,000 isolation facilities, up one last year, said Roque. 

The fatality rate from COVID-19 of the Philippines remains lower than other countries, he said in a press briefing.
 
“Excellent naman po talaga tayo sa handling, until this month of March kung saan sumipa ang mga kaso ng COVID,” Roque said. 

(We were really excellent in handling COVID-19, until this month of March, when cases spiked.)

Philippines on Monday recorded 5,404 new coronavirus infections, the fourth highest reported in a day since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, bringing the total number of cases to 626,893.

Roque said the surge cannot also be attributed to the reopening of the economy.

“Huwag po nating sisihin iyong ating pagbubukas ng ekonomiya,” said Roque.

“I don’t think anyone should be blamed. Kaya nga lang po, it’s the nature of viruses to mutate. Let’s just be thankful that it has mutated in a way na mas nakakahawa siya, pero hindi po mas nakakamatay.”

(Let us not blame the opening of the economy. I don't think anyone should be blamed. However, it’s the nature of viruses to mutate. Let’s just be thankful that it has mutated in a way that it's more contagious, but not deadlier.) 
 
However, Roque conceded that the government could "do better in contact-tracing.” 

Authorities only trace 6 or 7 close contacts of every COVID-19 patient, when 30 contacts should ideally be traced, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in a separate briefing. 

He said this might be due to public complacency and refusal to coordinate, and contact tracers who fall ill. 

“Patuloy po kaming nagpapaalala sa mga local government units na ‘wag lamang sa first level ang contact-tracing, hindi lamang doon sa nakahalubilo noong positibo—ngunit iyong nakahalubilo rin ng mga nakahalubilo ng COVID-positive,” Malaya said. 

(We continue reminding local government units that contact-tracing should not be at the first level alone, the contacts of those who test positive—but rather, those who interacted with the contacts of the COVID-positive.) 

With 621,498 coronavirus infections, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.