Roque spins again: 'We beat the UP prediction…Congratulations, Philippines!'

An ecstatic Harry Roque threw his fist in the air, but not to cheer for the University of the Philippines as he did during a UAAP Men's Basketball game in 2018.

This time, Roque painted UP as the enemy – as researchers from his alma mater projected 40,000 coronavirus cases nationwide by the end of June. As of Monday, June 29, 36,438 people tested positive for the virus.

Realizing belatedly that Tuesday was June 30, Roque rejoiced.

"Today is the last day na palaAno bang sinasabi ko? Wala na po, panalo na pala tayo! (What was I saying? Disregard that. We already won!) We beat the UP prediction po! We beat it! Congratulations, Philippines!" the presidential spokesperson triumphantly said.

The latest projection by the UP OCTA group of researchers estimated that cases may hit 60,000 by end of July, if there's significant community transmission across the country.

In high spirits, Roque said: "Let's do it again in July! So we are winning."

Rising numbers

Earlier in the briefing, the presidential spokesman urged the public to join an "interactive activity." Turning it into a game of sorts, Roque dared viewers to prove the UP researchers' projection wrong by observing health standards.

According to the Department of Health coronavirus tracker, more than 653,000 people were tested for the virus, 46,335 of whom turned out positive as of June 28.

But Roque said on Tuesday that the testing backlog is over 1,000 – which makes validated cases still less than the UP projection for end of June. If it were to be added, virus-hit patients would reach over 37,000.

"Bagama't halos 40,000, hindi naman umabot ng 40,000. Pero, halos. So naging successful po tayo. (Even if the case tally is near 40,000, we didn't hit 40,000. But it's near. So we're still successful)," Roque said.

True enough, on Tuesday, the health department announced a total of 37,514 positive cases, with 1,080 cases added to the previous tally. This marks the 2nd highest tally in a day ever since January 30, when the first coronavirus positive case was reported.

Of the latest tally, 858 fresh cases were recorded – the highest number of such cases to be reported in a day.

Cases are growing at a faster rate in other parts of the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said that the rise of cases in Cebu City and other emerging hot spots in Leyte and Samar is a cause for concern. WHO also said the Philippines has the fastest rise in the entire Western Pacific region of coronavirus cases.

Need for action

Those who have been watching the DOH numbers closely also say that if the testing backlog is added, we would actually be at more than 40,000 positive cases on June 30. Besides, quibbling over a few thousands misses the point as the number of positive cases continues to rise and the country finds itself in no better place than it was months back. This, despite the Philippines being among countries with the longest lockdowns thus far.

In Cebu City, the DOH explained that the increase in numbers was a result of higher testing capacity, in addition to unabated community transmission.

Given the still rising numbers, Roque's exuberance is misplaced, to say the least. Experts say the rising cases highlight the continuing need for government's timely and efficient intervention, before the situation spirals out of control.

The UP OCTA group of researchers said they stand by their data and forecast. The research they do is intended to "serve the public as well as government."

Starting June 1, the government eased quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and other hot spots to revive the economy, even as cases rose. – Rappler.com

Inside Track is Rappler's intelligencer on people, events, places and everything of public interest. It's a take-off from Newsbreak's Inside Track section. Contributions are most welcome. Just send bits of information to investigative@rappler.com.

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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