2020 most difficult year in history of DOH — Duque

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 23 2020 07:07 PM | Updated as of Dec 23 2020 07:08 PM

Video courtesy of Kapihan sa Manila Bay

MANILA — Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday admitted that the health department faced the biggest challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What I can say is that 2020 is the most difficult year in the history of the Department (of Health),” Duque said during a Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual forum.

The health chief said it was just the same for the rest of the world, which “has been brought down on its knees.”

“Even the most powerful countries, talagang pinaiyak ng COVID-19. Lahat talaga umiyak dito. Sobrang takot. Sobrang pag-aalangan. Sobrang maraming mga unknowns,” he said.

(Even the most powerful countries suffered under COVID-19. Everyone cried. Too much fear. Too much uncertainty. There are so many unknowns.)

But Duque claimed the department was unfazed and was able to implement its COVID-19 response, especially minimum health standards.

He also mentioned the increase in temporary treatment facilities, hospital beds allotted for COVID-19, and testing laboratories.

Despite this, Duque acknowledged the slight increase in COVID-19 cases in several cities in the National Capital Region.

“We were on a downward trend, continuous downward trend until of course recently… signs of a beginning surge have already been observed,” he said, citing 8 to 9 cities from NCR with higher COVID-19 cases.

Metro Manila, home to around 12 million Filipinos, has recorded 207,162 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Dec. 22, after 342 new infections were recorded. The total is broken down as follows: 7,792 active infections, 3,777 deaths, and 195,593 recoveries.

Nationwide, the cumulative total for the same day stood at 462,815, including 24,375 active cases, 9,021 deaths, and 429,419 recoveries.

Duque said the number of new cases has plateaued, although he considers the daily tally of 1,500 to 2,000 still high.

He said the situation would have stabilized once new cases are only within double digits.

In the past months, the DOH and Duque, in particular, have been criticized for the country’s COVID-19 response. Among the complaints against Duque are the delay in the release of benefits for health workers and the lack of COVID-19 vaccines this year.

President Rodrigo Duterte defended Duque.