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Duque touts Philippines among lowest COVID-19 rates, credits Duterte

Health Secretary Francisco Duque has touted the low COVID-19 infection rate in the Philippines compared to other countries, crediting President Rodrigo Duterte for the country's response to the crisis.

In a briefing that started airing late Wednesday, Duque said that the Philippines' current rate compared favorably to other countries.

“Isa po tayo sa may mababa na rate of infection kaya ito po ay nagsasalamin ng mga desisyon na ginawa po ng ating mahal na Pangulo,” he said at a press briefing in Malacañang.

The health chief said Duterte’s order to temporarily deny entry to travelers from China and its Special Administrative Regions in February and the lockdown of Luzon in March helped drive down the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

“Ito po ang dalawang pangunahing kadahilanan kung bakit po ang bilang ng COVID-19 infections sa Pilipinas ay mababa po talaga,” he said.

Earlier, however, Duque’s special assistant Dr. Beverly Ho explained that it is too early to conclude if COVID-19 cases peaked or slowed down because of the Luzon-wide quarantine.

“Ayon po sa mga experts… mid-April pa talaga natin malalaman kung nagkaroon ng epekto and [quarantine], nag-peak or nag-slow down ba ang mga kaso, at iba pang mahahalagang impormasyon,” she said.

The Department of Health, however, has previously come under fire for the country's limited testing capacity. Acknowledging the criticism, the DOH has acknowledged that initial cases reported may have been artificially low because of this.

But the government has ramped up testing capacity, eyeing up to 10,000 daily samples processed later this month.

The country has a long way to go before it meets its target.  Eleven laboratories nationwide have been accredited to conduct independent COVID-19 testing so far, capable of processing a cumulative total of under 2,000 specimens each day, according to DOH.

COVID-19 has claimed 182 lives and infected over 3,800 people in the country as of Wednesday afternoon. --JST, GMA News