VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte says he’s been warning of ‘deadly’ COVID-19 from the beginning. Not quite.

Amid the rising number of patients infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), President Rodrigo Duterte called on Filipinos to follow government directives and stay home to prevent the further spread of the virus.

In his nationwide address on April 6, Duterte said he has been warning the public since “the start” to watch out for the disease, which he described as “deadly” in a previous talk on April 3, because it will “really hit us hard.”

But this was not how the president framed the COVID-19 threat two months before his speech.

In his first media briefing about the issue on Feb. 3, a day after health authorities announced the country’s first COVID-19 fatality, Duterte downplayed the gravity of the outbreak and likened the nature of the novel coronavirus to others that are either treatable or have already been contained.

Watch this video.

Duterte, in the same Feb. 3 briefing, also wrongly likened the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Duterte says the new coronavirus is similar to HIV. Is that so?)

Since the country recorded its first case on Jan. 30, the number of confirmed patients infected with COVID-19 have climbed up to 4,076, with 203 deaths and 124 recoveries, as of April 9.



RTVMalacanang, Talk to the Nation on COVID-19 4/6/2020, April 6, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Kumusta Po Mahal Kong Kababayan? | PRRD’s Talk to the Nation on COVID-19 4/3/2020, April 4, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the meeting with Local Chief Executives, Feb. 10, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Briefing on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – Acute Respiratory Disease 2/3/2020, Feb. 3, 2020, COVID-19 TRACKER: AS OF APRIL 9, 2020 4:00PM PST


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)