VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque repeats false claim on COVID lockdown for the third time

Read this fact check in Filipino

For at least the third time, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque claimed that the Philippines was the first country to impose a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), resulting in fewer deaths and earning for it an 85 percent rating for effective response.

STATEMENT

In a Sept. 16 interview on CNN Philippines, Roque was asked for his reason in giving the government an 85 percent rating in responding to the pandemic.

Here’s an excerpt of the interview with news anchor Pinky Webb:

WEBB: To some, Secretary Roque, 85 percent might be a bit too high because when you look at even … let’s compare ourselves to the countries in Southeast Asia. We are the No. 1, (with) the highest COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia and, No. 2, when you look at all the articles online, it never says … you will never find the Philippines being set as a role model in addressing COVID-19. Whereas, you have Korea—well, iba po iyon...

ROQUE: Well, let me correct you. The New York Times cited the Philippines as having succeeded in lowering the numbers and keeping the numbers low. That’s the New York Times! And we were, in fact, clustered together with countries like Korea already, ‘no, in that classification...Isipin na lang po natin...marami nang namatay, pero mas marami pa pong dapat namatay. Iyong ikinatatakot natin na sangkatutak ang mamamatay dahil sa pandemya, hindi po nangyari dahil tayo po iyong kauna-unahang nag-lockdown.

(Let’s just think that…many people have died, but more would have died. Our fear that lots of people will die due to the pandemic didn’t happen because we were the first [country] to impose a lockdown.)

Source: CNN Philippines Official Youtube Channel, The Source: Harry Roque, Sept. 16, 2020 watch from 19:34 to 21:10

He went on to say that because of the lockdown, the country was able to improve the medical services it provides to those infected with the virus.

FACT

Contrary to Roque’s statement, Vietnam was the first country in Southeast Asia to declare a lockdown. (READ: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque repeats false claim that PH was ‘first’ to impose COVID lockdown in Southeast Asia).

After two patients were confirmed positive for the coronavirus on Jan. 23, Vietnam’s government swiftly implemented its emergency plan against the virus.

This included imposing travel restrictions, intensifying contact tracing and health checks, and closing its borders. Vietnam declared a national isolation on March 31, ordering people to go into self-quarantine and shutting down non-essential businesses for 15 days.

In Asia, China declared a lockdown and imposed quarantine measures also on Jan. 23.

On Jan. 31, President Duterte declared a travel ban on visitors from Hubei, China -- where Wuhan City, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus, is located -- when, in fact, the province was already placed on lockdown for a week.

Duterte expanded the travel ban starting Feb. 2 to cover all visitors from China and its special administrative regions when two Chinese travelers were confirmed positive for the virus, and one of them became the first fatality recorded outside China.

As of Sept. 21, the Philippines has recorded 290,190 total COVID-19 cases, with 3,475 more persons reported positive for the coronavirus on that day. The death toll as of the same date was at 4,999, including 15 who died the previous day, based on the Department of Health COVID-19 tracker.

On Sept. 16, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum that “we are not certain at this point [to say there is a decline in cases]” because the DOH has seen some areas with increasing numbers of cases.

“Overall, there are 53 provinces, highly urbanized cities, independent component cities with present increases in the number of cases and we are closely monitoring and we already coordinated with these different LGUs (local government units),” she said.

Source: Department of Health Official Facebook Account, WATCH: DOH Beat COVID-19 Media Forum - September 16, 2020, Sept. 16, 2020, watch from 28:08 to 28:22

Roque said in his Sept. 15 press briefing that the Philippines should have a grade of 85 percent for COVID-19 response, noting that the country did not meet the “three million” projected infections in June, kept a low mortality rate and a health system that is “not overwhelmed.”

For these reasons, he said, the Philippines “deserve[d] a very good grade” of 85 percent.

Sources

CNN Philippines Official Youtube Channel, The Source: Harry Roque, Sept. 16, 2020

VERA Files, VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque repeats false claim that PH was ‘first’ to impose COVID lockdown in Southeast Asia, May 20, 2020

CNN, Two cases confirmed in Vietnam, Jan. 23, 2020

The Straits Times, Wuhan virus: Vietnam says two Chinese citizens in Vietnam confirmed to have coronavirus, Jan. 23, 2020

Reuters, Vietnam says two Chinese citizens in Vietnam confirmed to have coronavirus, Jan. 23, 2020

Online Newspaper of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Gov't demands measures to prevent outbreak of infectious Coronavirus, Jan. 23, 2020

The Voice of Vietnam - VOV WORLD, Deputy Prime Minister orders effective measures to contain new coronavirus, Jan. 24, 2020

Hanoi Times, Vietnam confirms first China coronavirus cases; authorities take action, Jan. 24, 2020

Tuoi Tre News, Vietnam bans travel firms from taking in tourists from new coronavirus-hit areas, Jan. 29, 2020

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Vietnam Precautions and Travel Advice Regarding Novel Coronavirus, Jan. 30, 2020

Vietnam Insider, Vietnam suspends all types of Visas for visitors from coronavirus-hit areas, Jan. 31, 2020

British Broadcasting Corporation, Coronavirus: How 'overreaction' made Vietnam a virus success, May 15, 2020

Voice of America News, Vietnam Orders National Isolation After Initial Containment of Coronavirus, March 31, 2020

Vietnam Times, Clarification of Governmental Directive 15 and Directive 16 on Covid-19 preventation, April 23, 2020

Bloomberg, Vietnam Orders 15-day Nationwide Isolation From April 1, March 31, 2020

Xinhua Net, In unprecedented move, China locks down megacity to curb virus spread, Jan. 23, 2020

British Broadcasting Corporation, China coronavirus: Lockdown measures rise across Hubei province, Jan. 23, 2020

CTGN, Wuhan in lockdown mode to contain new coronavirus, Jan. 23, 2020

CNN Philippines, Duterte orders travel ban from China province amid coronavirus scare, Jan. 31, 2020

Interaksyon, Duterte is banning travelers from Hubei but province already on lockdown, Jan. 31, 2020

Business Mirror, Duterte orders travel ban on Chinese nationals from Hubei province, nCoV’s epicenter, Jan. 31, 2020

CNN Philippines, Duterte widens travel ban on mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Feb. 2, 2020

South China Morning Post, Coronavirus: Philippines reports first death outside China as Duterte orders travel ban on visitors from mainland, Hong Kong, Feb. 2, 2020

Inquirer.net, Duterte orders travel ban, as PH records 1st virus death, Feb. 3, 2020

Department of Health, DOH Reveals More Negative 2019-nCoV Cases; Confirms First nCoV ARD Death in PH, Feb. 2, 2020

Department of Health Official Facebook Account, WATCH: DOH Beat COVID-19 Media Forum - September 16, 2020, Sept. 16, 2020 watch from 28:08 to 28:22


(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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