Has the Philippines flattened the curve, and is it now on the second wave of its fight against the COVID-19 crisis?
Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros directed this question to Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III, who stated during the Senate hearing held on Wednesday, May 21, 2020, that “we have flattened the curve" and "nasa second wave na tayo.”
Duque further explained the number of new COVID-19 cases has “stabilized” to 250 per day, compared with the previously recorded new cases, which reached as high as 500 per day.
He added, "Pati sa ating bilang ng mortalities, ito po ay bumaba na din. Nag-plateau is one way of saying na nag-flatten na yung curve."
At press time, the Philippines has 13,221 new cases, 9,447 of which are considered active cases, 2,932 recoveries, and 842 deaths.
Pangilinan disagreed with Duque’s claim, "Until we test enough, isolate enough, and treat enough, this virus will continue to spread.
“Ano yung ibig sabihin nung ‘we have flattened the curve and we are now experiencing a second wave?'
"Kataka-taka ito dahil ang alam ko, base doon sa description kahapon o definition ng flattening of the curve ay wala na o bumabagsak na yung new cases.”
Hontiveros shared Pangilinan’s sentiments.
"Mahirap sabihin na we have flattened the curve without real and reliable data. We have to be honest: have we really? Let’s be clear on our benchmarks and indicators."
She also pointed out that DOH is “not testing enough.”
As of May 20, the country has only tested 0.2 percent or 200,000 of its 100-million population.
On May 8, Vince Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force COVID-19, told ABS-CBN that DOH is able to conduct testing at 7,000 per day, although it has the capacity to perform 12,000 per day.
The target by the end of May: 30,000 tests a day.
Meanwhile, Duque’s announcement that the Philippines is now on the "second wave" is also under fire.
He said at the hearing: “Actually nasa second wave tayo, yung first wave natin nag-umpisa, batay po ito sa ating mga batikang epidemiologist, na ang first wave natin happened sometime in January.”
He cited that the first wave happened when the country recorded its first three cases.
“Nung nagkaroon po tayo ng tatlong kaso ng mga Chinese nationals from Wuhan. Yun po ay kinikilalang first wave. Maliit lang na wave,” said Duque.
The veteran epidemiologist Duque was referring to was Dr. John Wong, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) sub-technical working group on data analytics.
Dr. Wong is also the founder of Epimetrics Inc., an independent health research and consulting institution located in Las Piñas City.
However, a top government official countered Duque’s declaration.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea stressed that even President Rodrigo Duterte himself has not made any announcement stating that the country is now experiencing the second wave of the virus.
“Alam mo, hindi pronouncement iyan ng Presidente. Kailan ba lumabas iyang second wave? That, we will have to see because as far as I know, wala pa tayo sa second wave,” Medialdea told reporters on May 21, at the Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program.
The program is a government initiative aiming to decongest Metro Manila, and promote provincial growth by assisting beneficiaries to get home to their provinces.
Medialdea could only hope there will not be a second wave, “Dinadasal natin, malakas siguro tayo magdasal. Wag natin i-expect, wag nating asahan pwede ba? Mahirapan tayo.”