MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is leading in the rise of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the entire Western Pacific region, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed.
From June 16 to June 27, COVID-19 cases in the Philippines jumped 8,143, placing it ahead of 22 countries in the region.
It was trailed with a big gap by Singapore, which registered 2,351 case, also China, which recorded 302.
The Philippines has the third most number of COVID-19 cases in the region as of June 27, with 34,803 cases, following only China with 83,500 cases and Singapore with 43,246 cases.
Both China and Singapore have been aggressively testing its population for the virus, while the Philippines still struggles to expand its testing capacity.
The country placed second with most number of deaths as it recorded 1,236—a high number in proportion to its infections compared to both China and Singapore, which reported 4,634 and 26 deaths, respectively.
The uptick in Philippine cases coincide with the government easing its lockdowns and increasing its testing capacity, which is still limited to targeted swabbing.
On Sunday, June 28, the Department of Health said that "the comparison made with Singapore and other countries requires a deeper understanding of population ratio versus number of cases."
Singapore has a population of 5.9 million, with 43,246 coronavirus cases. The Philippines' population is 109 million with 34,803 cases.
The DOH explained:
Per one million people, Singapore has a higher case at 7,393 cases per one million population compared to the Philippines which has 318 cases per one million population.
Singapore has a lower case fatality rate (CFR) at 0.06% or 26 deaths per one million population. The Philippines registers a 3.6% CFR, or 1,236 per one million population.
"This is still low compared to the Global CFR of 5.1%. As the national government strives to manage COVID-19 in the absence of a cure or vaccine, all agencies are tasked to closely monitor the rise in cases and strengthen our response through localized actions, especially in emerging hotspots," the DOH said, adding:
"These localized responses entail early detection of cases and tracing of contacts, their immediate isolation or quarantine, and appropriate testing and treatment. We have also addressed the rising critical care utilization through augmentation of equipment and workforce and ensure that we can manage possible surge of cases. Lastly, we continue to emphasize the implementation of minimum health standards, i.e. wearing of masks and physical distancing, as the most effective preventive measure in the absence of a vaccine."
In a statement, opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan said that the WHO's assessment was embarrassing to the Philippines' neighboring countries and the Filipino people.
"Nakakahiya sana sa mga kapit-bansa, pero mas nakakahiya sa kapwa Pilipino, sa mga doktor at nars at med tech at lahat ng nagbuwis at nagbubuwis ng buhay para masugpo ang sakit. Sa lahat ng sumunod at sumusunod sa sari-sari at madalas magulong mga guidelines tulad ng pagbubukas pero walang public transport," he said.
(This is embarrassing to the Philippines' neighboring countries but it is more embarrasing to the Filipino medical and health workers who put their lives on the line to face the virus; to everyone who have followed and have been following several, and often confusing, guidelines of the government such as the easing of the lockdowns but without public transport.)
For Pangilinan, contact- tracing and mass testing, which should have been done during the lockdown, are still the publich health measures that government must implement in in controlling the spread of the virus.
"Matagal na po nating sinasabi, pinapapanukala, pinapakiusap, sinasama sa Bayanihan2, mag mass testing at contact tracing. Hindi po nakukuha sa porma ng militar o pulis yan, o papirma sa Cha-cha, o pederalismo," Pangilinan said.
(We have been saying, proposing, appealing, included in Bayanihan 2, there should be mass testing and contact tracing. This will not be solved by military or police posturing or signing the Cha-cha or federalism.)
Pangilinan said any government should be taking care of its people especially during a pandemic.
"Alagaan ang kapakanan ng lahat pero lalong-lalo na ng pinaka-bulnerable, ang walang-wala. Huwag balewalain. Huwag manakit. Alagaan," he said.
(Attend to the well-being of everyone, especially the most vulnerable, those who have nothing. [Government] must not ignore. [Government] must not hurt. [Government] must care.) – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.