MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday rejected criticism of the government's COVID-19 response, telling critics, “You are wrong”, as the Philippines battled a potential surge in cases of the Delta coronavirus variant.
The Philippines ranks 24th worldwide in terms of total COVID-19 cases and places 86th when it comes to the coronavirus fatality rate, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
“All those na nagsasabi na mali at mahina ang COVID response, I am sorry, you are wrong, and the data will support us,” he said in a press briefing.
(All those saying that the COVID response was wrong and weak, I am sorry, you are wrong, and the data will support us.)
Roque's remark follows former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's statement that he was “disappointed” with the Philippine pandemic response, which he compared to that of Vietnam.
“'Yong handling ng pandemic doon, 'di hamak na mas maganda kaysa sa atin. Anong nangyari? Bakit hanggang ngayon ay nandito pa rin tayo? Marami pa ring namamatay, even yung needs ng mga hospitals, kulang,” said Alvarez, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.
(The handling of the pandemic there, it was much better than ours. What happened? How come we're still here? Many people are still dying and the needs of the hospitals are not met.)
Confirmed infections in the Philippines exceeded 8,000 a day from Friday to Monday. Sunday's recorded cases of 8,735 were the highest since May 28.
Metro Manila, home to nearly 13.5 million people, will be under enhanced community quarantine from Aug. 6 to 20, with inbound and outbound travel to be restricted.
The government gave the capital region's residents a week to prepare the lockdown, said Roque.
Authorities, he added, heeded the view of consultants and some 300 staff of the health department's epidemiological bureau.
“Hindi po tayo (we are not) reactive, we are guided by science,” Roque said.
“We hope that this will be our last ever lockdown. Bakit po? Kasi tumataas na ang numero ng ating pagbabakuna," he added.
(Why? Because our vaccination figure is rising.)
Some 9.3 million individuals have been fully vaccinated as of Aug. 2, and around 11.8 million have received one dose, Roque said. The government aims to inoculate 58 to 70 million in the country to achieve herd immunity.
A surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant has been rattling parts of Asia, including countries which had been relatively successful at containing the virus.
Just 200 cases of the Delta variant had been detected in Philippine communities, of which 17 were still active, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, although genome testing capacity in the Southeast Asian country is limited.
Strict quarantine curbs could help cap the number of active COVID-19 cases to around 25,000 by the end of September, Roque earlier said.
In a weekly national address, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday committed to providing vaccines to every Filipino. "It's just a matter of priority on hot spots like Manila. People are here so transmission is faster."
— With a report from Reuters