A Philippine government minister spent more than an hour in an online briefing painting a rosy picture of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic before admitting that he himself had been infected and was now self isolating. The admission by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez that he had tested positive for Covid-19 came at the end of a rambling online briefing hosted by the Presidential Communications and Operations Office which was short on measurable goals and long in expressions of hope. Lopez began the briefing by announcing the government would now require all commercial and government establishments to use the locally made StaySafe App to help in contact tracing efforts and that compliant establishments would be allowed to operate after being given “safety seals”. He then went on to wax lyrical about what the future held for the country’s pandemic-ravaged economy, which is facing the biggest contraction, of 7.8 per cent on some measures, of all the Southeast Asian nations. When a reporter asked what level of infections the government would need to see over the Christmas period if it were to ease lockdown by the new year Lopez replied that “hopefully, we have good news next year”, in a reference to the possible roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine, and said there were “good signs” for the economy such as the easing of the unemployment rate. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported last week that the jobless rate had fallen from 17.6 per cent in April – at the height of the country’s most extreme lockdown measures – to 8.7 per cent in October as the restrictions were eased. However, the Department of Health recently warned that another more restrictive lockdown might be needed if infections surged. Lopez dismissed the idea, saying the country “cannot afford a wider lockdown”. ‘Women age you’: is Philippines’ Duterte sexist, or a clever politician? It was not until nearly an hour and a half into the briefing, as Lopez was taking questions from a GMA TV reporter, that he disclosed he had tested positive for the virus. Asked by reporter Joseph Morong whether he was working from home or in isolation, Lopez replied “isolation”. Morong then asked him why and he said he had “tested positive”. Lopez then stressed he had not been near President R odrigo Duterte in recent weeks and was asymptomatic. On Tuesday, the country registered 1,387 new infections bringing the total number of cases past 444,000.