For Palace, it's 'wrong' to say Philippines has more COVID-19 cases than Indonesia

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
For Palace, it's 'wrong' to say Philippines has more COVID-19 cases than Indonesia
Airline ground staff (L) wearing protective gear work at the counter at the airport in Manila on August 4, 2020.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang rejected the fact that the Philippines has surpassed Indonesia as the country with the most coronavirus infections, claiming the numbers were only a product of the country’s increased testing capacity.

The Philippines reported 3,561 new infections Thursday, to take its total to 119,460, surpassing Indonesia as the worst-hit country in the region despite imposing one of the longest and strictest lockdowns.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. simply attributed this to the high number of coronavirus tests being carried out in the country.

The Philippines has so far conducted 1,667,831 tests. Meanwhile, Indonesia has so far carried out 908,000 tests.

“Dahil mas maigting ang ating pagte-test, hindi po totoo na mas marami tayong kaso sa Indonesia,” Roque said in a press briefing.

(Because we are more aggressive in testing, it’s not true that we have more cases than Indonesia.)

“Hindi lang nalalaman ng mga Indonesian kung sino sino ‘yung mga umiikot na mayroong sakit. At least tayo, alam natin kung sino sila,” Roque said.

(The Indonesians just don’t know yet who among them are roaming with the virus. At least, for us, we already know.)

But the Philippines also has 50,473 active cases or patients who are currently ill—higher than Indonesia’s 37,587 active cases.

In terms of population ratio versus number of cases, the Philippines has 1,058 cases per million people, while Indonesia has 427 cases per million.

Asked for his basis for claiming the Philippines has fewer cases than Indonesia, Roque responded: “Hindi ko alam how to answer that. Basta malinaw sa akin ang Indonesia, with more or less the same cases as us, has 1/3 of the actual testing that we have conducted on our people.”

(I don’t know how to answer that. But it’s clear to me that Indonesia, with or less the same [number] of cases as us, has 1/3 of the actual testing we have conducted on our people.)

While government officials repeatedly boast the country’s high testing capacity, its contact tracing efforts are lacking. Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the country's contact tracing czar, said late July that less than 1% of 600 local government units have good systems in place for it.

The Department of Health also said that the public should exercise caution when comparing the caseload of the Philippines with other Southeast Asian nations.

“So when we try to benchmark with other countries, it is okay. But when we compare numbers, we need to consider also the capacity of each country, the population of each country,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Earlier, Roque downplayed the rising coronavirus cases in the country, saying other countries are also struggling with the virus and that “we are not alone.”

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