Senators doubt Duque's claim that Philippines has flattened COVID-19 curve

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 05:32 AM

MANILA - Two minority senators on Wednesday questioned the Department of Health's claim that the Philippines has flattened its coronavirus curve, saying the country must test at least one percent of its 100 million population.

As of May 20, the Philippines has only tested 0.2 percent of the population, far from its target of swabbing at least 2 percent or 2 million Filipinos.

"Until we test enough, isolate enough, and treat enough, this virus will continue to spread…Ano ‘yung ibig sabihin nung ‘we have flattened the curve and we are now experiencing a second wave?" Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a hybrid hearing.

"Kataka-taka ito dahil ang alam ko, base doon sa description kahapon o definition ng flattening of the curve ay wala na o bumabagsak na ‘yung new cases," he said.

The Philippines has flattened its coronavirus curve as the number of new COVID-19 cases has "stabilized" to 250 cases a day from a high of 500 new coronavirus patients daily, Duque said.

"Pati sa ating bilang ng mortalities, ito po ay bumaba na din. Nag-plateau is one way of saying na nag flatten na yung curve," he said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also doubted Duque's statement, noting that the pronouncement should be based on reliable data that the Philippines can only have if the country could test at least 20,000 people a day.

"Mahirap sabihin na we have flattened the curve without real and reliable data. We have to be honest: have we really? Let’s be clear on our benchmarks and indicators," Hontiveros said.

The lawmakers further doubted Duque's claim after COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon confirmed that the Philippines has a backlog of 6,500 test results.

"We cannot say that the case is going down unless we know yung result ng backlog," Pangilinan insisted.
"There are so many variables... First, you’re not testing enough... Second, you have a backlog of 7,000 cases," he said.

"That in itself will affect the overall results... Patong-patong na kasi for us to be able to come up with a concrete or a scientific, science-based conclusion," he said.

Several experts earlier belied the DOH's assertions, saying the Philippines has not yet flattened its COVID-19 curve.

"Nagkakaroon pa rin ng increase pero mabagal ang pag-increase. ’Yung flat dapat parang table na," Dr. Felix Muga II earlier said in an online briefing.

The minority members warned Duque against announcing that the Philippines has already flattened the curve as this may lead to policy decisions that would trigger another wave of new coronavirus cases.

In the same hybrid hearing, Duque said that the Philippines was already experiencing its second wave of COVID-19 outbreak. 

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and experts from the private sector denied this claim.