PH still on first wave of Covid-19 infection: Palace

By Azer Parrocha

May 21, 2020, 3:37 pm

<p>Health Secretary Francisco Duque <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Health Secretary Francisco Duque (File photo)

MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday said the Philippines is still on the first wave of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infection, stressing Health Secretary Francisco Duque's interpretation of “waves” simply differed from other experts.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after some Cabinet members contradicted Duque’s statement saying the country is now experiencing a second wave of Covid-19 infection.

“Sabihin na lang natin, hindi nagkamali pero nagkaroon ng kakaibang opinyon (Let’s just say he didn’t make a mistake, but had a unique opinion),” Roque said in a virtual presser.

Roque, however, explained that while experts in the medical field may have different interpretations on scientific data, Palace was more inclined to other experts’ opinion that the country is still on the first wave.

“Lahat po ng propesyunal, iba-iba naman ang tingin, ang opinyon sa mga parehong siyensiya at parehong datos...Pero ang tingin ng marami, at marami naman po tayong kinunsulata, tatlong dalubhasa rin, kinakailangan basahin ‘yan na kabahagi ng iisa lamang wave (All professionals interpret it differently, their opinion on the same science and the same data. But many think, and we have consulted many experts, at least three, that we need to read it as part of the first wave),” he said.

He also admitted that Duque’s statement on the supposed second wave was not communicated to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Kaya nga po nabanggit ng Executive Secretary na wala pong ganyang impormasyon na nakarating kay Presidente na galing kay Secretary Duque. Kumbaga meron po tayong protocol na sinusunod, lahat po ng impormasyon, ipaparating muna sa Presidente at ang Presidente ang magsasabi sa taong-bayan either personally or through our office (That’s why Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said such information from Duque has not reached the President. We have a protocol that should be followed, all information should be relayed to the President and the President will announce it to the public either personally or through our office),” he said.

Despite these differing interpretations and terminologies, Roque explained that all experts agreed that it is necessary to take steps to prevent the number of Covid-19 cases from further increasing.

“It is just on the terminology on when is the big wave coming. Nagkakaisa po tayo na dapat maiwasan yung panibagong napadaming numero ng pagkakasakit na naman (We all agree that we should prevent another increase in the number of people getting sick),” he said.

To prevent a surge in Covid-19 infection, Roque assured that the government will not rush its decision to further relax quarantine protocols.

“Naka MECQ pa rin ang Metro Manila at hindi naman po tayo magmamadali para mai-lift ito kung hindi tayo sigurado na number 1 ang kurbada ay na-flatten at number two, sapat po ang ating kakayahan upang magbigay ng critical care (Metro Manila is still under modified enhanced community quarantine and we are not in a hurry to lift this if we are not sure that the curve has flattened and that we have enough health capacity to provide critical care),” he said.

He also apologized to the public for causing unnecessary alarm over a possible second wave of Covid-19 infection and assured that the government is working to prevent the situation from worsening.

Conservative side

Roque, meanwhile, urged the public to continue observing quarantine protocols and good hygiene even after Duque, in citing the World Health Organization (WHO), said there is still no evidence that asymptomatic Covid-19 cases were contagious.

“Siyempre po the better view is mag-ingat pa rin (Of course, the better view is to still be careful). Kaya nga po ang importante ay (That’s why what’s important now is) testing, testing, testing. Let’s veer towards the conservative side and let’s consider the person next to you as a possible carrier,” he said.

In a hybrid Senate hearing on Wednesday, Duque disclosed that the Philippines is “actually” on the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, citing epidemiology experts.

Epidemiology expert John Wong, in a televised press briefing with the Department of Health (DOH), said that the first Covid-19 wave in the country happened in late January when the Philippines recorded its first three confirmed cases.

The second wave of the Covid-19 infection in the country peaked at the end of March, Wong, who is also part of the government task force on Covid-19 sub-technical working group on data and analytics, added.

However, a number of Cabinet members including Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año among others disputed Duque’s claim.

Last Saturday (May 16), Metro Manila and other parts of the country at risk of Covid-19 infections transitioned to modified enhanced community quarantine with more industries allowed to open.

Only the cities of Cebu and Mandaue remain under enhanced community quarantine while the rest of the country are under general community quarantine.

Health authorities said that around 240,000 have been tested in the country.

The government aims to test 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the population with a target goal of increasing the country's testing capacity to 30,000 Covid-19 tests per day by the end of the month.

There are 13,221 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country with 842 deaths so far and 2,932 recoveries as of May 20. (PNA)