PH still on first wave of COVID-19 outbreak, Duque just had 'different' opinion: Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 01:11 PM

Tricycle riders in Marikina City undergo mass testing using rapid test kits for COVID-19 on May 19, 2020 amid the modified enhanced community quarantine. The Marikina government aims to test around 6,000 tricycle drivers until Friday, with thousands more workers in the manufacturing industry to follow, as more industries have been allowed to reopen under the modified lockdown. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Roque apologizes for any confusion

MANILA - The Philippines is still on the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang clarified Thursday, contrary to the health chief's earlier declaration that the country was already seeing a second wave of infections.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III only had a "different opinion" when the latter told senators in a hearing Wednesday that the Philippines was already on its second wave of infections. 

Roque reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte's warning that the country should avoid another wave of COVID-19 infections.

"Tama po ang ating Presidente, dapat po ay gumawa tayo ng mga hakbang para makaiwas sa second wave. Tayo po ngayon ay nasa first wave," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

(The President is right, we should avoid a second wave. We are currently on the first wave.)

The Duterte spokesman added that the health chief did not inform the President of his opinion on a supposed second wave of infections and apologized to the public for the confusion over the conflicting remarks of government officials and medical consultants.

"Nagpapaumanhin po kami kung kayo ay naalarma pero ang katunayan po ang siyensya naman po at importante ang pagbasa sa mga waves para alam natin ang gagawin na response," he said.

(We apologize if the public was alarmed but science and understanding waves are important in preparing our response.)

WAS DUQUE WRONG?

Duque on Wednesday said the Philippines saw the first wave of the pandemic in January, referring to the first 3 cases of COVID-19 in the country. The health chief was referring to the patients from Wuhan City, China, where the coronavirus pandemic began. 

An expert later said in a Department of Health briefing that the second wave began in March, when the rise in local cases began. 

But Roque on Thursday said the first few reported cases should not be considered as a wave since these are not community-acquired cases over a period of time.

Asked if the health chief was wrong in saying that the Philippines is already seeing a second wave of infections, Roque said Duque only had a different opinion.

"Sabihin na lang natin hindi nagkamali, kundi nagkaroon ng kakaibang opinyon," Roque said.

(Let's just say that he wasn't wrong but had a different opinion.)

"Ang medisina para rin mga abogado 'yan. Iisa lang ang batas namin, iba-iba ang interpretasyon. Ganyan din po siguro sa medisina, iisa ang siyensya, iisa ang datos, iba ang basa," he added.

(Medicine is like law. There is only one law but there are different opinions. It may be the same with Medicine. There is one science, a single source of data, but they read it differently.)

But despite the different terms used, Roque assured the public that the government is united in preventing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.

"Ito naman po ay paglilinaw. Maliit na bagay lamang po ito... It is just on the terminology on when is the big wave coming. Nagkakaisa po tayo na dapat maiwasan iyung panibagong napakadaming numero na magkakasakit na naman," Roque said.

(This is just a clarification. A small matter... It is just on the terminology on when is the big wave coming. We all agree that we have to avoid another spike in infections.)

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded a cumulative 13,221 confirmed COVID-19 cases, among the highest infection rates in Southeast Asia. Of this number, 842 have died while 2,932 recoveries.

Cases continue to rise at an average of over 220 a day, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing Wednesday. This despite two months of a strict lockdown in Luzon and other high-risk areas. 

Experts and officials have warned against abruptly lifting quarantine restrictions in high-risk areas as this might trigger another wave of infections.