Philippines remains the only Southeast Asian country with COVID-19 cases spike, data show

March 17, 2021 - 1:37 PM
Personnel from Quezon City Police District conduct a checkpoint at the boundary of San Mateo-Batasan Road on Monday, March 15, 2021. (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

A year into the pandemic, the Philippines fares poorly in suppressing the novel coronavirus compared to its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

Think tank IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa presented this on social media in the form of graphs.

The graph covers the comparison of cases in the region from Feb. 15, 2020 and March 11, 2021.

It was indicated that the source of information was global COVID-19 tracker worldometer. The data was accumulated on March 14.

The graphs showed nearly all nine members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have downward trends in their COVID-19 cases except Cambodia and the Philippines.

Cambodia has a steady trend from February to March 2021. The figures, however, are minimal compared to the uphill direction in the Philippines.

In his post, Africa quoted presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s controversial “excellent” remark.

“Are our neighbors in Southeast Asia doing as ‘excellently’ as us one year after the pandemic hit us all?” he wrote.

Roque made this remark at a briefing when a reporter asked him his assessment of the government’s response in containing the pandemic.

“We were excellent. Na-control po natin ang pagkalat ng sakit lalung-lalo na kung ikukumpara tayo sa mas mayayaman at mga bansa na mas mararami at mas moderno ang mga ospital,” the spokesman said.

READ: Was the Philippines ‘excellent’ in controlling COVID-19 spread? Here’s what numbers say

In the World Health Organization Wester Pacific’s tally on March 16, Philippines still tops the highest new infections in 24 hours with 5,395 cases and also the highest in total number of cases with 626,893 on record.

The Philippines is followed by Malaysia with 1,208 new cases. In the total number of cases, second place goes to Japan with 448,688.

The worsening situation in the country over the weekend caught the attention of Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.

In response to a local statistician’s tweet about the highest recorded daily tally of COVID-19 cases, Feigl-Ding expressed that such numbers are “worrisome.”

“Philippines is trouble. Somehow, it’s usually the places headed by you-know-what type of leaders with these surges these days,” he said.

READ: ‘In trouble’: US epidemiologist raises alarm over COVID-19 cases surge in Philippines

Renewed scrutiny over gov’t COVID-19 response

Africa blamed the current administration for its response to the pandemic, citing indecisiveness from the start, harsh lockdowns and other false claims of success.

“The Duterte administration is to blame for the out-of-control pandemic and spreading economic hardship. It was indecisive at the start, feigned decisiveness with harsh lockdowns, and is still faking a response today with false claims of excellence and stimulus,” Africa said.

Similarly, civic group People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action Philippines also shared an infographic on the national government and President Rodrigo Duterte‘s perceived failure to handle the public health crisis.

In it, the organization enumerated:

  1. No sense of public health needs and demands
  2. The focus is on controlling the public, not fighting the virus
  3. The goal is to sow fear in communities

The group also pointed out the lifting of lockdown restrictions in regions considered at-risk of viral transmission, which some medical groups previously considered “premature,” and the failure to provide the public with basic pandemic needs such as face masks and access to COVID-19 testing for free.

“That we are now looking at the worst COVID-19 numbers in Southeast Asia is a measure of how Duterte and his people mishandled this crisis,” read its statement.

“Duterte propaganda has sought to erase what we know for sure, a year since the March 2020 lockdown: That we should hold government accountable and #BlameDuterte for this crisis,” it added.