Duterte says COVID-19 vaccine may be available by December
MANILA - The Philippines is still battling the first wave of COVID-19, President Rodrigo Duterte said early Wednesday, as the country's coronavirus infections neared 48,000.
"Have we arrived at the second wave? I don't think so. We're still grappling the first wave," the President said in a streamed public briefing aired 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The health department earlier said the country was not experiencing a second wave of the disease, saying the surge in infection is attributed to increased testing capacity and community transmission.
"We are not experiencing a second wave but an increase in numbers of positive cases due to increase in testing, and community transmission caused by lack of implementation of minimum health standards. The increase has been gradual and our health system is able to cope with the increasing number of cases," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
Despite the rise in cases, Duterte said the the country has logged more recoveries than deaths since the pandemic began in January.
"Ang patay natin compared to those who recovered it's quite small," he said.
On Tuesday, the country saw its third highest-single daily rise of coronavirus cases with 1,540 new infections, pushing the nationwide toll to 47,873. The tally includes 1,309 fatalities and 12,386 recoveries.
During his speech, the President also defended the government's decision of gradually easing lockdown measures, saying the country couldn't afford to have another surge of COVID-19 cases.
"Because if we open the entire Philippines, thousands of thousands of new cases would happen then we are in deep s***. Talagang mahirapan tayo. Una wala tayong pera," he said.
Since emerging in Wuhan City in China's Hubei province last year, there are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The President, however, said the vaccine against the disease could be available by December.
"I'm confident by our readings of other countries who have much improved their scientific study, I think that by December meron na hong vaccine or at least if not a vaccine a medicine that could kill the COVID-19," he said.