MANILA - Despite having the most number of infections in Southeast Asia and overtaking the case tally of mainland China where the COVID-19 outbreak originated, the Philippines has done a "very good" job in containing the pandemic so far, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman said Wednesday.
While community transmission of the virus remains, the Duterte government was able to avoid over a million cases, as forecast by University of the Philippines researchers, with its lockdowns beginning mid-March, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
"No country in the world is perfect in dealing with coronavirus. And I would say that we’ve done very good so far in containing it and more so, in limiting the deaths arising from coronavirus," Roque said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
"Without the earlier lockdowns which we took advantage of to improve our critical care capacity, we would have 1.5 to 3.5 million as early as June of this year, which did not happen," he said.
Despite having one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world, the Philippines continues to grapple with a surge in infections, recording a record-high of 6,958 additional cases in a single day on Monday.
The rise in infections has prompted exhausted health workers to urge Duterte for a stricter lockdown in Metro Manila, the country's virus hotspot. Heeding the call with a "compromise", the chief executive placed the capital and 4 of its neighboring provinces back under modified enhanced community quarantine on Aug. 4-18.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has 139,538 confirmed COVID-19 cases, ahead of Indonesia's 128,776--which has more than twice the population of the Philippines.
The Philippines has been "able to manage so far" despite a high population density in Metro Manila, Roque said.
The country recorded its first COVID-19 infection on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged.
The lockdowns, which vary in strictness, have bruised the economy, shrinking by 16.5 percent in the second quarter and plunging into recession for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Critics have called out Duterte for his supposed militaristic response to the pandemic, as he has relied mostly on retired military generals to lead the implementation of policies and plans.