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Duterte repeats wrong once-in-a-century coronavirus claim

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For the second time, President Rodrigo Duterte has erroneously claimed that viruses like the novel coronavirus occur only once in a century.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address on July 27, Duterte said COVID-19 had caught nations unawares because, he stressed, the virus that causes it (SARS-CoV-2) happens once every hundred years.

He said:

No nation on earth was really prepared for COVID. No amount of preparation because that kind of microbes visits about once every 100 years. …

The president first made this flawed claim in his June 30 late-night televised public address, saying, “That pandemic, it comes about once in a century.”

FactRakers fact-checked Duterte’s June 30 statement and a similar claim made by his acting economic planning secretary, Karl Kendrick Chua. (Read: Duterte mistakes pandemics as ‘once in a century’ occurrences. Also read: Coronavirus pandemic is not a ‘once-in-a-century problem’)

Seven pandemics have occurred in the last century, including two in the 21st century.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2, there were four influenza or flu pandemics: the 1918-20 Spanish flu transmitted by the H1N1 virus, 1957-58 Asian flu (H2N2), 1968-69 Hong Kong flu (H3N2) and the 2009-10 swine flu (H1N1pdm09).

The other pandemics are the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) epidemic that started in 1981 and reached pandemic proportions years ago, and the “longest running” pandemic since 1961: cholera.


5th State of the Nation Address of Rodrigo Roa Duterte President of the Philippines to the Congress of the Philippines. (2020, July 27). Retrieved from

FactRakers. (2020, April 24). Coronavirus pandemic is not a ‘once-in-a-century problem.’ Retrieved from

FactRakers. (2020, July 1). Duterte mistakes pandemics as ‘once in a century’ occurrences. Retrieved from

Talk to the people of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020, June 30). Retrieved from


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