FACT CHECK: Duque claims PH has ‘low’ coronavirus infection

Bonz Magsambol

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FACT CHECK: Duque claims PH has ‘low’ coronavirus infection
Due to limited testing capacity, the Philippines is only testing severe to critical cases of the coronavirus infection. The country has not yet done mass testing.

Claim: Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday, April 9, claimed the Philippines has relatively “low” cases of coronavirus, and has done better in containing its spread than other “richer” countries.

“Isa po tayo sa pinakamababa. Kung ihahambing po natin ang mayayamang bansa ay di hamak na malayong-malayo po ang ating ranggo kung titingnan po natin na ayan po malinaw naman po sa mga listahan sa COVID world tracker ay isa po tayo sa may mababa na rate of infection,” Duque said in press briefing led by President Rodrigo Duterte. 

(We have one of the lowest cases of infection. If we are to compare ourselves to richer countries in the COVID world tracker, we’re among those with the lowest rates of infection.)  

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has reported 3,870 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 182 deaths and 96 recoveries. 

According to Duque, the Philippines’ ratio of coronavirus infection to population is only two per every one million population.

He said that this was due to the two preventive measures implemented by the  government such as the absolute travel ban to China – the ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic – and the enhanced community quarantine or lockdown of the entire Luzon region. 


The facts: Due to limited testing capacity, the Philippines has been testing only severe to critical cases of coronavirus infection. The country has not even started mass testing yet.

The Philippines has been lagging behind other nations when it comes to testing capacities. Numbers as of April 4 show that the Philippines has been testing only 48 PUIs per million people. On March 20, it was only 12 PUIs per million. (READ: IN CHARTS: PH lags behind other countries in COVID-19 testing)

South Korea, which was once the country with the most cases of COVID-19 after China, has been able to keep infection levels low, one reason being, efficient testing. It conducts 6,148 tests per million people – a far cry from the Philippines’ 12. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Beating COVID-19: The hammer and the dance)

2nd highest in Southeast Asia

The health department also stopped displaying the number of individuals tested on April 4 after chief implementer of government coronavirus task force Carlito Galvez Jr said in a press briefing that a total of around 16,000 individuals were tested for the virus.

This created confusion because on Thursday, April 2, there were only around 5,000 individuals tested for the virus as shown on the coronavirus tracker. Reporters asked for clarification on the figure, but the DOH did not respond. (READ: DOH says coronavirus tracker ‘suffering issues’ after confusion over test figures)

Despite limited tests being conducted to date, the Philippines has the second highest confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Southeast Asia next to Malaysia. It also ranked second with the number of deaths. 

Meanwhile, Singapore, a first world country, ranked 5th and has one of the lowests deaths caused by COVID-19.

The government announced that on April 14, they will begin “massive testing,” but this will cover only the following:

  • patients under investigation
  • persons under monitoring for possible infection, with symptoms
  • high-risk patients such as health workers, pregnant women, and those with other medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes

The government on Tuesday, April 7, announced the extension of the Luzon lockdown until April 30, from the original April 12, to stem the spread of the virus. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.