The Philippines is still riding its first wave of COVID-19 infections, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said today, contradicting Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who said yesterday that the country’s second wave of infections had already started.
“You know, the field of medicine is similar [to the field] of lawyers. There’s only one law, but everyone has a different interpretation. Perhaps it’s the same in medicine, there’s only one science [and] one data, but [people] interpret it differently,” Roque said in English and Filipino in a virtual presser.
Citing epidemiologists, Duque claimed in a virtual Senate hearing that the first wave started in January when three infected Chinese nationals from Wuhan arrived in the Philippines. For weeks, the country only had those three cases; then several new cases were reported daily a month after.
Roque, meanwhile, said the first three cases are too small to be considered the first wave.
“There are some who read [the data and interpret] that three imported cases of COVID from Chinese nationals are considered the first wave. But for me, if you look at the definition of a curve, this so-called wave, it is the number of cases over a period of time of community-acquired cases,” Roque said.
“Whether be it a wavelet or a first wave, the reality of it is, we need to prevent a second wave that would get more people infected,” the spokesman said, adding that President Rodrigo Duterte has purportedly warned about the second wave of infections.
“The President is right; we should avoid the second wave. We are currently on the first wave,” Roque said.
Citing data from health professionals, he said that the first wave may have started in late January and is still occurring this month because the number of COVID-19 cases hasn’t gone down, though Roque claimed that the curve “is starting to flatten.”
Earlier, an infectious disease expert named Benjamin Co said the Department of Health should be “more prudent” in declaring that the second wave is ongoing because it would only create greater anxiety among the public. He added that lack of contact tracing and testing might have contributed to the absence of reported cases between late January and March.
In his presser today, Roque apologized to the public, and said, “[T]he evidence is in the science, and the most important thing is how we read the waves so that we know how to respond [to the crisis].”
He also assured the public that the contradicting statements coming from the Duterte cabinet about the pandemic shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
“One of us is perhaps a little out of tune, [but] the rest of the orchestra is OK,” Roque said.
The country now has 13,434 recorded cases, including 846 deaths, and 3,000 recoveries.