The Philippines will test a larger number of the population for COVID-19 than the United States, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a televised meeting today with government officials.
Duque told President Rodrigo Duterte that health officials have so far tested 1.120 million people in the country as of July 20. The number is expected to increase, he said, because the Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing to test 10 million, or a mere 1o% of the country’s roughly 100 million population by 2021.
“We cannot test each individual. No country has been able to do this, even the richest ones like the United States of America,” Duque told Duterte in English and Filipino.
(Well, that’s a pretty low bar, chief.)
The U.S. which currently has the highest COVID-19 cases and deaths globally has tested some 40 million people out of its more than 370 million residents. Or according to Duque, “close to 9 percent of the total population.”
“We can surpass that. We will [be able to test] 10% of the total population of the Philippines at 109 million. We might be able to reach 10 million Filipinos by 2021,” Duque said.
He added that the officials are eyeing to test up to 40,000 Filipinos a day, from the current 25,000 screened for COVID-19 daily.
Duterte, who’s expressed support for the health secretary despite widespread criticisms in his handling of the coronavirus response, expressed support for the target, stressing that coronavirus testing is difficult in the country, but more so in the U.S.
“In America, a good number of people there do not want to be tested because they do not believe in it,” Duterte said.
“I think 10 [million] would be a good number if you can achieve that…In other countries, they have this efficient [way to] follow-up on contact tracing. Here it’s difficult but it can be done. But [like] I said, it’s a herculean task to do it,” the president added.
Filipinos have long urged the government to conduct mass testing as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Duque is currently facing accusations of corruption, while the DOH is allegedly underreporting the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It doesn’t help that the DOH has been setting coronavirus testing targets that it has constantly missed.
Despite calls for Duque’s resignation, Duterte has asked the health chief to stay on his post. Duterte’s spokesman has even defended allegations of the health secretary’s corruption, saying that his family is affluent and will therefore not steal from the government.
To date, the country has 68,898 cases with 1,835 deaths and 23,072 recoveries.
Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!