Duque’s statement on COVID-19 ’second wave’ confuses experts

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 20 2020 05:41 PM | Updated as of May 20 2020 06:30 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III speaks during the Lower House hearing on an update on the COVID-19 in Quezon City on March 11, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines is still dealing with the current stream of COVID-19 infections, contrary to its health chief’s announcement that the country was now experiencing a “second wave,” medical experts said Wednesday.

This next phase in a pandemic comes only with “humongous outbreaks,” and after the first wave of infections has come under control, said Dr. Benjamin Co, a specialist on pediatric infectious diseases who has been monitoring the country’s epidemiological curves based on daily government data.

“We’ve never flattened anything yet,” he told ABS-CBN News. “We’re still dealing with the first wave.”

Co said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should clarify his statement during Wednesday’s Senate hearing that the country’s first wave came in late January when 3 Chinese nationals sickened with the virus arrived here.

“I think he’s coming from a definition, probably, that (the curve) was flat from the very beginning then came a few cases,” Co said.

The health department on Wednesday reported 279 new cases bringing the total number of infections in the country to 13,221, with a death toll of 842. Of the total number of infections, 9,447 were considered “active” cases.

“We’re seeing gains, to be fair,” said Co, citing the fewer number of reported deaths and new cases daily.

Dr. Tony Leachon, a medical adviser to the government task force on the pandemic, said quarantine measures in certain areas would not have been relaxed if epidemiological data pointed to a second wave.

“It would have been counterintuitive to do that,” he said. “When you say ‘second wave,’ it means you have flattened the first one. We’re still in the first wave.”

The UK-based Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) cautioned against “making absolute statements of certainty about ‘second waves’” about the new coronavirus, which has infected 4.9 million people worldwide.

“We do not know for certain whether COVID will recur in phases, or sporadic outbreaks or disappear altogether,” wrote Tom Jefferson, a senior associate tutor and honorary research fellow at CEBM.