MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte never downplayed the threat of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after Duterte drew flak for saying that he warned the public about the Covid-19 threat “at the start.”
“Hindi naman po pinagwalang-bahala (The President didn’t ignore it),” he said in a virtual presser.
Panelo said Duterte simply relied on advisories of the World Health Organization (WHO) allaying fears over Covid-19 since the country only had a few numbers of confirmed cases in February.
He said Duterte expressed great concern when WHO started modifying advisories after declaring Covid-19 a public health emergency of international concern in January.
In March, WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic which means a worldwide spread of a new disease.
“Si Presidente nun, sumusunod lamang siya sa takbo ng patakaran ng World Health Organization at sa nakikita niya sa kaniyang kapaligiran (The President was only following the course of rules set by the World Health Organization and what he see around him),” he said.
He said Duterte was only trying to ease anxiety amid the health crisis because the public was already starting to get hysterical.
Health authorities reported the first cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines in January while the first local transmission was reported in early March.
“Ayaw niya po lumikha ng masyadong anxiety o pagkatakot, kaya sinabi niya ‘yun (He didn’t want to cause anxiety or fear, that’s why he said that). Immediately after that, gumawa na siya ng lahat ng kaparaanan (he started implementing measures),” he said.
He said the President immediately started to imposing measures, such as a travel ban to foreign countries and eventually local destinations, when the number of Covid-19 cases started to rise.
“Nung makita niya na dumarating na yung unos nitong coronavirus, gumawa na po siya ng lahat ng kaparaanan at nakita po natin bigla siyang nagkaroon ng lockdown (When he saw that the threat of coronavirus was coming, he implemented all measures, he even declared a lockdown),” he said.
He also pointed out that Duterte declared an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus.
Panelo admitted that there were lapses in the government’s handling of the Covid-19 health crisis but appealed to the public to lessen criticism and instead provide helpful suggestions.
“Sana (I hope) at this time of our crisis, yung pong mga pagpuna natin sa pamahalaan e wag na muna tayong maging masyadong mainit noon. Kumbaga nakaraan na yun ginagawan na ng paraan. Mas maganda magbigay tayo ng mungkahe nalang (let’s not to be too hot over criticizing the government. There were lapses but that happened in the past and are already being addressed. It is better to give us suggestions),” he said.
Last Monday, Duterte said he warned the public about the treat of Covid-19 “at the start” saying the pandemic would cause “sadness and fear” among citizens struggling to recover from the crisis.
“Itong Covid na ito, ito talaga ‘yung tunay na at the start sinabi ko sa inyo bantay kayo dito, bantay tayo, talagang yayariin tayo nitong Covid na ‘to (This Covid, I said from the start you should watch out, we should stay vigilant because Covid will really affect us all),” he said. (PNA)