61% of Filipinos believe China withheld coronavirus information – SWS poll

A big majority of Filipinos believe China withheld information on the coronavirus from the world, showed a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released on Tuesday, July 14.

According to the SWS survey released in the Stratbase Albert del Rosario (ADR) Institute forum held on Tuesday, 61% of Filipinos said they either "strongly believed" (28%) or "somewhat believed" (33%) "the accusation of other countries that China did not immediately share their information on COVID-19 to the world, such as the severity of the disease and the number of deaths in China because of this virus."

This is the first time Filipinos have been polled on their opinions regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

SWS president Mahar Mangahas said the findings came from a nationwide survey conducted from July 3 to 6. 

The survey made use of mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviewing for 1,555 Filipinos aged 18 years old and above, with a sampling error margin of ±2% for national percentages. It was commissioned by the Stratbase ADR Institute. 

The survey also found that of those who believed China withheld crucial information on the coronavirus outbreak, a big majority or 77% of Filipinos want Beijing to be held accountable for not immediately sharing information with the world. 

The survey, conducted 6 months into the coronavirus crisis, covered the unfolding response to the disease which has so far infected over 13 million people worldwide and killed more than 573,000 in over 190 countries and territories. 

An investigation by the Associated Press (AP) found China did not warn of the new coronavirus for 6 key days at the beginning of the pandemic.

Recordings obtained by AP also revealed that the World Health Organization struggled to get information from China during the early days of the outbreak, which had been needed to evaluate the risks for the entire world.

Since then, China has faced growing scrutiny over its handling of the virus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. While it remains unclear exactly what officials knew at the time, AP reported that experts believe the delay "muffled early warnings."

The position of a big majority of Filipinos is in contrast to the repeated praises President Rodrigo Duterte has heaped on China and President Xi Jinping since February. In several speeches, Duterte thanked Xi for supporting the Philippines and "expressed strong solidarity" with China. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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