MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday said a new wave of coronavirus infections might occur if Metro Manila shifts to a general community quarantine too soon without mass testing.
Duque drew this "worst case scenario" when asked at a Senate hearing of possibilities in case the capital region, where most cases of the virus have been reported, relaxes lockdown restrictions.
“Ang worst case scenario rito ay mag-uulit tayo ng mga outbreaks at magkakaroon ng tinatawag na second wave. Actually third wave na tayo,” he said during the hearing of the Senate committee of the whole on updates on the COVID-19 response.
(The worst case scenario is we will have fresh outbreaks and we will have second wave [of infections]. Actually we’re on our third wave.)
To date, COVID-19 has sickened 12,942 in the Philippines, of whom 837 have died while 2,843 have recovered.
Duque was reacting to a question raised by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian if Metro Manila, home to nearly 13 million people, may soon transition to a general community quarantine without conducting mass testing.
The capital region on Saturday moved to looser restrictions under a modified lockdown.
To monitor a possible resurgence of the novel coronavirus, the government should keep a close watch of provinces with at least 25 COVID-19 cases, highly-urbanized cities with at least 15 cases and chartered cities with at least 10 cases, the health chief said.
“Ito ang mga numero na dapat bantayan natin para masabi natin itong mga lugar na ito ay nagkakaroon ng outbreaks,” Duque added.
(These are the numbers that we should monitor in order for us to determine that there are fresh outbreaks in these areas.)
Despite public clamor for mass testing, the government is conducting an expanded, targeted testing that prioritizes symptomatic patients and those from vulnerable sectors.
Of the country's 108 million population, nearly 208,000 have so far been tested for COVID-19.
With 30 COVID-19 testing laboratories, the country conducted more than 11,000 tests on May 15. The government’s goal is to run 30,000 tests daily by the end of May.
Experts earlier warned that more testing needs to be done to gauge how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has spread.
In early May, an epidemiology and data analytics expert working with the DOH said the country had indeed started flattening the curve for COVID-19.
Dr. John Wong of Epimetrics Inc. and associate professor of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health had said the case doubling time or the time it takes for the total number of COVID-19 cases to double in the Philippines was at 4 to 5 days.
With the spread of the virus far from abating, a mathematics professor from the Ateneo de Manila University cautioned the public against believing that the country has already succeeded in flattening the curve.