VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte wrongly claims all countries imposed lockdown to counter COVID-19

President Rodrigo Duterte erroneously claimed that every single country in the world has imposed a lockdown in response to the rising cases of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

STATEMENT

In a recorded press briefing aired at 1 a.m. on March 20, Duterte called on all Filipinos, particularly local government officials, to “abide by the directives of the national government,” being the ones at the forefront of implementing the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

Duterte said:

“All over the world, there is confusion and chaos already because of these lockdowns. We are not the only ones into it. All countries of the world, as a matter of fact, are doing it. And that is why it adds more trouble than what is already there that we can handle.”

Source: Radio Television Malacañang, Message of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to local government units on implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, March 19, 2020, watch from 8:09 to 8:32

FACT

As of March 19, only 23 countries out of 197 worldwide are on lockdown while some are implementing travel restrictions, according to several news reports.


In the Philippines, Interior and Local Government Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya explained that a lockdown refers to the restriction of people’s travel from and to a certain area by authorities. Duterte initially placed Metro Manila on community quarantine, then later expanded it to cover the entire Luzon island. Several local government units (LGUs) in Visayas and Mindanao have also placed their respective areas on lockdown. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Understanding ‘community quarantine’ and ‘social distancing’ policies)

In an interview with VOX, Lindsay Wiley, a health law professor at the American University Washington College of Law, said “lockdown” is not a technical term used by public health officials or lawyers:

“It could be used to refer to anything from mandatory geographic quarantine (which would probably be unconstitutional under most scenarios in the US), to non-mandatory recommendations to shelter in place (which are totally legal and can be issued by health officials at the federal, state, or local level), to anything in between (e.g. ordering certain events or types of businesses to close, which is generally constitutional if deemed necessary to stop the spread of disease based on available evidence).”

Source: VOX, Italy and China used lockdowns to slow the coronavirus. Could we?, March 10, 2020


Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he is not considering a lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead focusing on social distancing, according to news reports.

South Korea has tackled the global pandemic by providing free mass diagnostic testing to its citizens. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Panelo falsely claims South Korea imposed ‘total lockdown’ to control spread of COVID-19)

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the pandemic is “accelerating” with more than 540,000 confirmed cases globally, according to a Johns Hopkins COVID-19 case tracker.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “possible to change the trajectory”:

“You can't win a football game only by defending. You have to attack as well. Asking people to stay at home and other physical distancing measures are an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus and buying time – but they are defensive measures.

Source: World Health Organization, WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19, March 23, 2020

To win, he said “we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics – testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and tracing and quarantining every close contact.”

Ghebreyesus recommended six key actions to help suppress and stop transmission, and to stop the virus’ resurgence when lockdown measures are lifted:

  • expand, train, and deploy your health care and public health workforce;
  • implement a system to find every suspected case at community level;
  • ramp up the production, capacity and availability of testing;
  • identify, adapt and equip facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients;
  • develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts; and,
  • refocus the whole of government on suppressing and controlling COVID-19.


Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Message of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to local government units on implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, March 19, 2020

Radio Television Malacañang Youtube, Message of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to local government units on implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, March 19, 2020

Encyclopedia Britannica, List of Countries

ANC 24/7 Youtube, DILG Usec. Malaya: No impending lockdown in any part of Metro Manila | Matters of Fact, March 11, 2020

Washington College of Law website, Lindsay F. Wiley

VOX, Italy and China used lockdowns to slow the coronavirus. Could we?, March 10, 2020

Reuters.com, Indonesia not considering lockdown as ministers tested for COVID-19, March 16, 2020

The Jakarta Post, No lockdown for Indonesia, Jokowi insists as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, March 24, 2020

Republika.co.id, Why Indonesia Does Not Impose Lockdown?, March 24, 2020

Johns Hopkins University, Coronavirus Resource Center, March 26, 2020

World Health Organization, WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19, March 23, 2020

Business Insider, At least 20% of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown — here's our constantly updated list of countries and restrictions, March 25, 2020

Aljazeera.com, Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns by country, March 24, 2020

Inquirer.net, 1.7 billion told to stay home worldwide over virus, March 24, 2020

Agence France-Presse, Nearly one billion people confined to homes globally to curb virus, March 21, 2020

World Health Organization, WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19, March 25, 2020


(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.)

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