MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday acknowledged that the country's COVID-19 response was far from ideal when the pandemic started.
“I know that COVID-19 has revealed fissures, the cracks and the gaps in the Philippine health care system but that was an eye opener,” Duque said during a virtual event with the MVP Group of Companies on Friday.
“And I will be the first to admit that our initial response was rather slow, if not laggard. Why? Because nobody actually expected this pandemic . . . The whole world was brought to its knees in trying to manage their COVID pandemics in all countries, with almost no exception,” he said.
The health chief said this as he talked about “worthy learning points” from the pandemic and how it was able to “become an accelerator of the universal health care.”
Duque earlier drew flak for his comment that the COVID-19 outbreak was a “blessing in disguise” because it accelerated the implementation of the universal health care law but the Department of Health spokesperson said it was not meant to offend.
During the event on Friday, Duque said there were a lot of “worthy learning points when COVID-19 hit the country,” including how it has served as “an accelerator of the universal health care.”
He enumerated how the pandemic forced the country to increase its laboratories running polymerase chain reaction tests for COVID-19 from just one to more than a hundred now.
He also pointed out that it pushed the country to augment health care professionals' requirements and put up 160,000 temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.
“If it weren’t for this COVID-19 I don’t think we would have been able to really achieve a much faster pace (of implementation of) these provisions of the Universal Health Care law. It’s not all bad news,” he said.
As of Friday, there have been 252,964 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, 62,250 of which are active or still infected. While the deaths at 4,108 is considered low compared to the global average, the Philippines has the most number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia.