Philippine virus testing best in Asia? No, says UP expert


Posted at Sep 16 2020 01:57 PM | Updated as of Sep 16 2020 02:11 PM

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A member of an inter-disciplinary research group from the University of the Philippines rejected Wednesday a government claim that the country holds the best coronavirus testing record in Asia. 

The Philippines has "the best testing policy in the whole of Asia and probably in the whole world" because it has screened 3 million out of its around 100 million people for the novel coronavirus, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday. 

Asked if he agreed with this assessment, UP-OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said, “No.” 

"Respectfully to the Secretary, many of the countries especially in north Asia, have had such robust testing and contact tracing protocols that their pandemics never really exploded in the way that ours did in July," he told ANC. 

“We are testing so much, and yet the total number of cases is quite high here in the Philippines, sadly,” said the biology professor. 

The health department has confirmed 269,407 coronavirus infections, 57,392 of which were active, as of Tuesday, 6 months since the government imposed one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world. 

The Philippines has the 21st biggest caseload worldwide, according to a dashboard by the Johns Hopkins University. 

Early on in the pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte's administration faced public criticism for its handling of the crisis as the 75-year-old leader relied mostly on retired military generals to implement policies.

Criticism heightened in late July as health workers cried for a "time out" due to the overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases amid eased quarantine levels, warning that the country's health system was on the verge of collapse. 

The call prompted Duterte last month to revert the capital region and neighboring provinces to a stricter quarantine just as the government— which employs a test, trace, treat approach— was urged to revisit its pandemic response strategy.

Malacañang on Tuesday dismissed criticism that the government was excluding medical professionals in crafting pandemic response policies and strategies, saying the Department of Health is still the lead agency.

"Wala pong hindi doktor ang nagbibigay ng polisiya pagdating sa COVID," Roque said.

(There is no non-doctor giving policy advice when it comes to COVID.)

ANC, Sept. 16, 2020