PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE HEALTH department on Tuesday said new coronavirus subvariant cases in the country has yet to result in “sustained, large case increases or hospital admissions.” 

The Philippines had experienced rising infections not just this month but as early as when it started opening its borders, Alethea de Guzman, officer-in-charge of the agency’s Epidemiology Bureau, told a news briefing. 

“Since we started reopening our borders, we’ve monitored a gradual increase in cases,” she said in Filipino. 

Ms. De Guzman said it’s hard to say whether the recent uptick in cases had been caused by the BA.4 or other emerging coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) variants. 

The Health department posted 17 Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 cases last week, while the first case of the Omicron subvariant BA.4, which authorities see as a “variant of concern,” was reported at the weekend. 

There were 1,214 new infections and six new deaths from May 16 to 22, it said on Monday. 

The Philippines had fully vaccinated nearly 69 million people as of May 23, while 13.8 million booster shots have been injected. 

Meanwhile, the government of outgoing President Rodrigo R. Duterte was a major source of disinformation during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an international civic group. 

Mr. Duterte himself made false claims about the coronavirus, which is “symptomatic of an information problem,” Innovation for Change-East Asia said in a report. 

The group cited seven instances where the president gave the public wrong information, including an instance where he claimed to have formed an inter-agency task force to manage the coronavirus. 

“It took the task force around three weeks to meet and release pronouncements about COVID-19 after the World Health Organization released a notice about the virus,” it said. “It was actually his predecessor who established the mentioned task force.” 

Mr. Duterte also boasted that the Philippines was the first country in Asia to impose lockdowns during the pandemic. 

“This misinformation was corrected by the press, as China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Mongolia have placed lockdowns before the Philippine lockdowns started in mid-March of 2020.” 

The group also said Mr. Duterte contradicted himself the following month when he said he had warned the country about the dangers of the coronavirus. 

“What he actually did was dismiss concerns and say that the virus will die a natural death even without vaccines,” according to the report. 

“No one in the world knew about COVID-19 during the onset of the pandemic,” Mr. Duterte’s spokesman told reporters. “What is important is our success in balancing the health of the nation and the economy.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza 



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