Palace shoots down 2 pandemic warnings from OCTA group

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2020 03:06 PM | Updated as of Oct 27 2020 03:24 PM

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a press briefing of the IATF-EID at the Quezon Memorial Circle on July 30, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday rejected the warning of a group of researchers from the academe which warned that 2 recent developments might spawn a spike in coronavirus infections in the country. 

The OCTA Research Group group said in a recent report that the Philippine Red Cross' suspension of coronavirus testing due to the government's billion-peso debt led to a 40-percent drop in the daily screening output of Metro Manila, the virus epicenter.

This "crippled" contact-tracing efforts because local officials could "not know whether or not a person is infected with COVID-19 within the 24-48 hour time period required," said the group composed of professors from the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, and Providence College in the United States. 

"We simply disagree po kasi hindi lang naman PRC ang nagti-test," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

The government, he said, accredited 151 testing laboratories, he told reporters. 

The Red Cross was responsible for some 1.1 million COVID-19 tests, or about a quarter of the country's total output. 

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Roque said he also disagreed with the OCTA group's warning that easing physical distancing requirements in public vehicles might lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections. 

The policy has the backing of former health secretaries Esperanza Cabral and Manuel Dayrit. 

"I'm sorry. Itong mga doktor na ito ay respetado. Hindi ko po alam kung sino ang doktor ng OCTA group," said Roque. 

(These doctors are well-respected. I do not know who the doctor in the OCTA group is.)

With 371,630 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,039 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of infections and fatalities in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia. - With a report from Reuters