'We have not yet flattened the curve': IATF adviser says PH still in coronavirus first wave

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 08:43 AM | Updated as of May 21 2020 08:51 AM

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MANILA - The Philippines is still in the first wave of the novel coronavirus outbreak, a medical expert said Thursday, refuting Health Secretary Francisco Duque III's statement that the country is now experiencing the second wave of the pandemic.

"Ang first wave na alam ko 'yung unang nag-lockdown, 'yong community quarantine kasi ang doubling time nun mabilis," Dr. Anthony Leachon, Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) adviser, told ABS-CBN Teleradyo.

"We have not yet flattened the curve eh kasi ang second wave nangyayari after na mag-flatten ka. So parang 'yan ay experience sa Spanish influenza ng 1918, nag-flat siya tapos tsaka ka nagkaroon ng second wave," he added.

Leachon said it is "counter-intuitive" to ease the lockdown during the second wave of the outbreak.

"Counter-intuitive na ikaw ay nag-ease ng lockdown kung tayo nasa second wave. Kaya nga tayo nag-ease ng lockdown because nag-iimprove nang kaunti itong barangays pero 'yong ibang area hindi pa," the doctor said.

"Kaya tayo nag-ease ng lockdown para 'yong economy natin huminga at the same time modified [enhanced community quarantine] 'yon. Para sa ganoon nababantayan mo pa rin ang mga tao. ... Nasa first wave pa tayo," he added.

The task force adviser clarified that the first three cases of the country, who are Chinese nationals from Wuhan, are just "first index cases."

"First few cases 'yon dapat na ginamit mo para makapag-start ka na ng testing ... 'yon ang ginawa sa [South] Korea, Vietnam. Habang mayroon ka pang maliliit na cases that was the best time para makapag-testing," he said.

"Kung 'yong 3 cases iko-consider mong peak 'yon eh 'pag flinat mo eh wala kang makikitang bundok eh. 'Pag flinat mo sa epidemic curve wala kang makikitang bundok," he added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an epidemic curve shows progression of illnesses in an outbreak over time. Epidemic curves depict when people became ill by day, week, or month.

"Ang explanation kasi ng epidemic curve 'yun 'yong acute viral transmission na mataas na magdidikta kasi hindi nakahanda 'yong ating healthcare system. So habang ikaw ay nakalockdown 'yon ang pagkakataon mo na i-build up 'yong healthcare system mo, 'yong testing, 'yong mga ospital, 'yong mga doktor mai-ready mo," Leachon said.

"Hindi pa natin pwedeng sabihin na stabilized kasi 'yong reports na nakikita natin sa ahensiya, health agency, hindi pa siya real time at this point in time," he added.

Leachon said a second wave of the outbreak will be caused by "importation cases," as described by the World Health Organization. He cited the case of Singapore, which has among the highest number of coronavirus infections in Asia mainly due to outbreaks in cramped migrant-worker dormitories.

"Ang isang example in modern times ay ang Singapore. After na successful siya na napababa niya, nung nag-open ang borders niya sa mga migrant workers, siya na ang nasa pinakamataas ngayon nasa 25,000 cases," he added.

He said the incoming rainy season could also increase COVID-19 cases as more people evacuate due to typhoons and more sick people cause high congestion in hospitals.

According to the John Hopkins University and Medicine COVID-19 tracker, 4.9 million people have been infected with COVID-19, globally, with more than 324,000 fatalities and more than 1.7 million recoveries.