File photo shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
The STAR/Joven Cagande
Roque disputes WHO data on Western Pacific with COVID-19 stats from outside region
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - June 29, 2020 - 4:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday attempted to dispute a recent World Health Organization report which cited the Philippines as the country with the fastest rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Western Pacific region.

"If you divide the cases per million population, this is what you get: the highest in the Western Pacific [is] India [with] 549,197, followed by Pakistan [at] 202, 955. Bangladesh [has] 137, 787, Indonesia [has] 54,010, [then] Singapore [with] 43,459, and then the Philippines at 35,455," he said in Filipino during a Palace briefing.

Despite Roque's claims that the Philippines should actually be sixth in the WHO's recent regional ranking, the first four countries he mentioned are not part of the region that the World Health Organization was talking about.

India, Bangladesh and Indonesia are part of the WHO South-East Asian region while Pakistan forms part of the the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region.

WHO divides the world into six regions for administration and for disease reporting and analysis.

Additionally, the data that the presidential spokesperson presented refers to the total of COVID-19 cases per country and not cases per million of the population, the metric that he said should be used.

"The data doesn't lie...we will let the data answer the WHO report," Roque added in Filipino.

Data from the WHO showed that the Philippines recorded a total of 8,143 new cases from June 16 to June 27 the highest among 22 countries in the region.

Singapore came in second with 2,351 new cases, followed by China with 302 in the same period.

Cases per million people

Both Roque and the health department have taken issue with WHO's methods, stating the rise in cases should be measured per million of each country's population.

The Department of Health has said that Singapore has a population of only 5.9 million and a case load of 43,246, while the Philippines has 109 million people and 34,803 cases.

For every one million people, Singapore has a higher rate of 7,393 cases compared to the Philippines’ 318 cases, the DOH stressed.

"The WHO said that we have the fastest rising cases in the whole Western Pacific region. Is this true? We beg to disagree. Of course, if you look at the rise in cases, it should be in relation to your population. Why are we being compared to Singapore when it only has 5 million people? That's just one city, not even as big as Quezon City or Manila," Roque said in Filipino.

However, Singapore has a significantly lower case fatality rate (CFR) of 0.06 percent or 26 deaths per one million population. Meanwhile, the Philippines registers a 3.6-percent CFR, or 1,236 per one million population. This figure is comparatively low, as the global CFR is at 5.1 percent.

The Philippines has 11.34 deaths per million of its population while Singapore has a significantly lower 4.4.

Despite their vehement disagreement with WHO's methods, both the Palace and the DOH did not address the fact that China — which is actually a part of the Western Pacific region and boasts the world's largest population with over a billion people — managed to come in third on WHO's list, recording 302 cases from June 16 to June 27.

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