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Has the Philippines flattened the curve or not? DOH explains

MANILA—There’s a lot of interest on whether the Philippines is flattening the curve or succeeding in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

But the Department of Health said on Thursday that, for now, there are only “indications” that it has happened.

“Batay sa ating datos ngayon, maaari nating sabihin may indikasyon na nagfa-flatten na. Pero dahil ang tinitignan natin dapat ang araw kung kailan nag-uumpisa ang sintomas ng tao, hindi pa rin natin masasabi na nagpa-flatten ang curve ngayon,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a televised briefing.

(Based on our data now, we can say that there are indications that it’s flattening. But because we are looking at the date when the person started their symptoms, we can’t really say that the curve has already flattened now.)

Flattening the curve refers to efforts to slow down an outbreak and make it more manageable. This includes community isolation measures, such as the enhanced community quarantine. Flattening the curve also refers to how a line graph looks when the number of new cases daily is no longer increasing or has stayed low.

What is clear, Vergeire said as she showed graphs of new cases, is that the the doubling time of new COVID-19 cases in the country has increased, meaning that it takes longer for the number of COVID-19 cases to double.

“Ang dating doubling time natin na 3 days ay ngayon nasa 5 araw na po,” Vergeire said. “Ibig sabihin, mentras humahaba ang doubling time, mas mabagal ang pagdami ng kaso sa ating bansa.”

(From 3 days, our doubling time is now at 5 days. This means that with the longer doubling time, the increase in cases in the country continues to slow down.)

However, Vergeire said the public should not be complacent since physical distancing needs to be maintained to prevent the spread of the disease.

The health official also earlier said that the DOH wants the doubling time to go up to 30 days so that there would only be a total of 12,000 cases by May.

During a video conference with journalists on Thursday morning, Dr. Beverly Ho, special assistant to the health secretary, said the DOH recognizes the limitation of their data.

“We don’t want to say it (totally flattened) because it might be scientifically inaccurate. We’re not categorically saying it flattened,” she said. Instead, she said, they prefer to use say that there are “indications” that it is about to flatten.

Both Vergeire and Ho recognized that data is not completely accurate as the country has yet to reach its ideal testing capacity

“Ang ating goal by April 30 maka-reach ng 8,000 tests per day,” Vergeire told reporters on Thursday morning. She said that when that happens, they would be able to see a more accurate picture of the whole situation.

(Our goal by April 30 is to reach 8,000 tests per day.)