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Malacañang refutes DOH statement, says Philippines still in first COVID-19 wave

Photo: Facebook/Presidential Communications Government of the Philippines

In a press briefing on Thursday, May 21, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque refuted the statement of Department of Health (DOH) secretary Francisco Duque III that the Philippines is already experiencing its second wave of COVID-19 infections.

“Tayo po ngayon ay nasa first wave,” said Roque. “Alam niyo po ang medisina, para ring mga abogado ‘yan. Iisa lang ang batas namin [pero] iba-iba ang interpretasyon. Ganyan din po siguro sa medisina; iisa ang siyensya, iisa ang datos, iba ang basa.”

(We are currently on the first wave. You know, the field of medicine is like being a lawyer. We have a single law but there are different interpretations. It may also be the case with medicine; there is one science, one body of data, but with different interpretations.)

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday for the government’s COVID-19 plans, the health secretary shared data from epidemiologists and said how the country is actually on its second wave of the pandemic. According to DOH, the first wave actually refers to the first three imported cases of COVID-19 in January, wherein three Chinese nationals from Wuhan, China, were confirmed to have the virus. The bureau added that the second wave was when the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases peaked in March, at 10,000 cases.

Malacañang went on to note that the first three cases cannot be considered as the Philippines’ first wave of infections since it is too small. The country is still in the first wave and though the curve has yet to be flattened, it is already starting to flatten.

In an interview of ABS-CBN with Dr. Anthony Leachon, adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), he said that a “mountain” has to be observed in an epidemic curve before a number of cases will be considered to have peaked.

“Ang explanation kasi ng epidemic curve, ‘yun ‘yung acute viral transmission na mataas na magdidikta kasi hindi nakahanda ‘yung ating healthcare system,” Leachon shared. “So habang ikaw ay naka-lockdown, ‘yun ang pagkakataon mo na i-build up ‘yung healthcare system mo, ‘yung testing, ‘yung mga ospital, ‘yung mga doktor mai-ready mo.”

(An epidemic curve is when there is a high percentage of acute viral transmissions that reveals the healthcare system was not able to prepare. So while you are on lockdown, it is your chance to build up your healthcare system, your testing [capacity], hospitals, and to prepare doctors.)

“Hindi pa natin pwedeng sabihin na stabilized kasi ‘yung reports na nakikita natin sa ahensiya, health agency, hindi pa siya real time at this point in time,” added Leachon.

(We cannot say yet that [the situation] has stabilized because the reports that we see from the [IATF], the health agency, are not yet real-time at this point in time.)

As of May 21, the DOH has reported 213 new cases of COVID-19, with a total of 3,000 recoveries and 846 fatalities.

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