MANILA, Philippines – The spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the Philippines is attributed to ‘multiple factors’ and is not caused by government incompetence, an official of the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
During a Palace briefing on Monday, WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said a country’s testing capacity, population, and health systems capacity affect the decline or increase of infections.
“So, what will be more accurate is to look at the incidence rates or the number of cases per 100,000 or 1 million population, this would be going to point where the Philippines actually is,” Abeyasinghe said.
“But again, there are multiple factors that affect the transmission in a country because countries are different from each other,” he added.
The WHO official also stressed that other countries have also experienced a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, prompting governments to reimpose restrictions even in nations that are doing extensive vaccination.
“I would want to reiterate the fact that the Philippines is not unique in seeing an increase, and this increase is not attributed in any way to incompetence,” Abeyasinghe said.
“We are seeing a week-on-week increase in the number of cases worldwide, not just here in the Philippines, in nearly all of WHO’s six regions, we are seeing an increase of cases week-by-week over the last four weeks,” he added.
Abeyasinghe’s remark comes after some critics questioned the Philippine government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 803,398 COVID-19 cases with 646,237 recoveries and 13,435 fatalities. Of the total cases, 143,726 are active.
The WHO official said that the increased transmissibility due to new coronavirus variants, along with the gradual reduction in compliance with health protocols due to pandemic fatigue, optimism in the arrival and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines also contribute to the surge in infections.
“The increase is not attributed in any way to a lack of competence. It is an issue related to the factors I have mentioned,” Abyasinghe said.
“Of course, that does not take away from the fact that we need to continue to invest and work towards strengthening our preparedness and response capacities on the ground,” he added.
The national government placed the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna – called NCR Plus – under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 4 in a bid to stem the surge in infections.
It was later extended to April 11.
Aside from the NCR Plus, President Rodrigo Duterte also placed Quirino Province and Santiago City in Isabela under modified ECQ while the Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur under general community quarantine (GCQ) for the month of April.
The rest of the country was placed under modified GCQ.