DOH sorry 'for confusion,' says PH still in 1st wave of COVID-19 transmission

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 05:43 PM | Updated as of May 21 2020 05:45 PM

Healthworkers don their personal protective equipment at a drive thru testing center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig on April 29, 2020. As part of the city’s Systematic Approach to Responsible Testing (SMART) program, the testing facility aims to target residents who own vehicles and are unable to get tested through other testing sites. The drive-thru testing facility is located at the Northeast Parking Area in front of Kidzania, and is open every Wednesday from 3pm - 5pm. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Contrary to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s statement that the Philippines is already on its second wave of its COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Health clarified on Thursday that the country is still on its first wave.

“Earlier presidential spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that we are still in the first wave of the epidemic. The DOH confirms that yes we are on the first wave driven by a local community transmission,” Dr. Beverly Ho, director of the DOH Promotion and Communications Service, said during a televised briefing.

“We apologize for the confusion that this has caused but we hope that this does not in any way distract us from what we really need to do to change the course of this pandemic,” she added.

She said this a few hours after Roque said that Duque’s initial statement was based on his personal opinion. Duque was supported by epidemiologist John Wong, a member of the sub-technical working group on data analytics of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19, who said that the first wave was the three Chinese nationals who tested positive while in the Philippines.

But Ho said the country is still on its first wave, at least the one “driven by local community transmission.”

“Kung matatandaan niyo po local community transmission happened noong nagsimula po tayo magreport ng cases ng mga kababayan natin sa walang exposure sa mga positive cases o kaya walang travel history,” she said. “We are still in this wave.”

(If you remember, local community transmission happened when we first reported cases of Filipinos without exposure to positive cases or without travel history.

The presence of community transmission was confirmed in early March and became the basis for raising the alert level in the country.

Ho confirmed that the peak of the current wave happened on March 31 when the country recorded 538 new COVID-19 cases.

“Since then the average number of cases has declined to around 220 cases per day,” she pointed out. “This is the reason why we are saying that we have started to flatten the curve.”

But some experts countered the claim that the coronavirus spread has slowed down in the Philippines. 

Dr. Felix Muga II, mathematics professor from the Ateneo de Manila University, has said that the graph of new cases should be flatter like those in other countries like South Korea. 

Dr. Benjamin Co, a specialist on pediatric infectious diseases, also said that the country has “never flattened anything yet.”

Ho reminded the public that they should continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene to help beat the pandemic.