MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III may have drawn flak for his statement on the status of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, but a medical adviser of the government task force on the pandemic believes he should remain in his post.
“I think he should be maintained. He should be inspired. He should be supported because we could not have another leader on the midst of crisis right now,” Dr. Tony Leachon said on ANC’s Headstart.
Duque came under fire earlier this week after announcing that the Philippines was already experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, the first being the series of three cases of patients from Wuhan, China, the origin of the virus, recorded in January.
Several cabinet members contradicted his statement, with the Palace finally declaring it was just his opinion, and that the country was still in the first wave.
“My honest opinion, I think Sec. Duque is actually tired right now, and he needs to rest,” Leachon said.
He said Duque needs to enlist more people outside of his technical advisers to help him.
“Ang feeling ko Secretary Duque is still the best man on the job, ang kailangan lang (what is needed) is to be able to help him, to be able to guide him to make decisions,” he said.
Leachon said the Philippines has not yet gone over the first wave but is already close to flattening the curve.
Health officials earlier said the country was now averaging over 200 new COVID-19 cases a day. It had peaked at over 500 in the end of March.
“Very close to flattening. The reason for the lockdown is basically to buy time for us, for the health care system to improve that will lead us to the new normal,” he said.
As of May 21, the Philippines has recorded 13,434 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 846 deaths and 3,000 recoveries.
“We’re actually plateauing but we’re going there to flatten in a few weeks as long as we will maintain our discipline in terms of social distancing,” he said.
He said the second wave is more feared because it is more dangerous than the first.
The second wave happened to Singapore when it opened its borders to migrant workers, he said.
“From 5,000 cases after flattening the curve, it is now at 25,000, being the number one in Southeast Asia right now,” he said.
He said that the game changer for the Philippines is testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.
“This will be our exit strategy until 2022, 'til the arrival of a vaccine,” he said.
As of May 15, the government has been conducting over 11,000 coronavirus tests daily, up from 5,000 tests earlier in the month.
Around 45,000 overseas Filipino workers, meanwhile, are set to come home in June, raising fears that it could trigger a second wave.
“It could trigger kung ‘di mo na-anticipate. Pero because of our research and reference modeling, na-anticipate natin itong overseas contract workers, hindi rin sila puwedeng magtagal doon, they might actually get the infection as well so ang ginawa natin nire-repatriate na natin sila right now,” Leachon said.
(It could trigger if you were not able to anticipate. But because of our research and reference modeling, we anticipated these OFWs, they can't stay for long [overseas], they might actually get the infection as well so what we do is repatriate them right now.)
He said protocols are in place to assist them once they arrive home.
The repatriates are tested for the coronavirus upon arrival and undergo quarantine in a government facility for 14 days. Once cleared, they are sent to their hometowns and then undergo another 2-week quarantine, Leachon said.