Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque wrongly claimed that the Philippines has the “best” COVID-19 testing policy in Asia and “probably in the whole world.”
Roque, assessing the government’s response to the pandemic, said in his Sept 15 press briefing the country has conducted more than three million coronavirus tests, or on 3 percent of the population, which he said makes the country's testing policy the best in Asia and perhaps the world:
We clearly have the best testing policy in the whole of Asia and probably in the whole world because we have exceeded three million and as a percentage of total population, ano na po iyan, lubus-lubusan na po iyan doon sa sinasabi nilang 3% na dapat na ma-test ang population at patuloy pa po tayo ‘no. So, dadami po tayo and I think we will have the highest number of testing, one of the highest in the whole world. So, that’s clearly, our biggest strength.
But Roque correctly said in a television interview that the Philippines has done the most number of tests in Southeast Asia and has surpassed South Korea and Japan.
He told CNN Philippines in an interview on Sept. 16:
Over three million already, the highest in Southeast Asia – better than Korea; better than Japan. And we have now exceeded our target of three million tests, and it’s early in the game still ‘no because we’re building even more labs.
Data from Worldometer, which is run by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers and considered as one of the best free reference websites by the American Library Association, show that the Philippines only ranks seventh in Asia in the number of COVID-19 tests done as of Sept. 16. China, India and Turkey lead in total tests.
The Philippines ranks only 31st in Asia in terms of tests done per million population or percentage of population tested. The United Arab Emirates is first, followed by Bahrain and then by Singapore, a Southeast Asian country.
Globally, Worldometer placed the Philippines in 20th spot for the number of COVID-19 tests it has done and 133rd for total tests per million population.
While it is true the Philippines leads Southeast Asian countries in the total tests done to date, it trails behind Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia when the tests are compared to the size of the population.
Roque accurately claimed that the Philippines fared better than South Korea and Japan in the number of tests. The two East Asian countries have logged 2,178,832 and 1,745,311 tests respectively. But South Korea has conducted more tests per million people, 42,490, than the Philippines, 28,799.
Statistics from Our World in Data on coronavirus testing around the world show the same patterns.
Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (2020, September 16). Worldometer. Retrieved from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
Our World in Data. (n.d.). Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing. Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-testing
Presidential Communications Operations Office. (2020, September 15). Press briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. Retrieved from https://pcoo.gov.ph/press-briefing/press-briefing-of-presidential-spokesperson-harry-roque-78/
Presidential Communications Operations Office. (2020, September 16). Interview with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque by Pinky Webb – Headstart/CNN Philippines. Retrieved from https://pcoo.gov.ph/media-interview/interview-with-presidential-spokesperson-harry-roque-by-pinky-webb-headstart-cnn-philippines/
Worldometer. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from https://www.worldometers.info/about/