Duque claims PH has 'successfully flattened' COVID-19 curve since April

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2020 02:50 PM | Updated as of Jul 15 2020 05:01 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. ABS-CBN News/File

Duque clarifies remarks on Twitter

MANILA (2ND UPDATE) - The Philippines has "successfully flattened" the COVID-19 pandemic curve since April, the country's health chief said Wednesday, even as more cases of the disease have been recorded in recent days.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the conclusion was based on the longer COVID-19 case doubling rate and mortality doubling time.

"We have successfully flattened the curve since April," he said during a virtual presser with reporters past noon.

Duque also claimed that the government was able to improve its pandemic response in terms of public health interventions and non-pharmaceutical interventions such as the mandatory wearing of face masks for citizens.

"While we have flattened the curve, I have earlier indicated that this was able to provide us a window of opportunity to improve and increase, one-up our health system's capacity," Duque added.

An analysis made by the ABS-CBN Data Analytics team, however, showed that the Philippines has yet to show a sustained downward trend in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported by the Department of Health daily.

But hours after his statement, Duque took to Twitter to clarify his remarks.

The health chief explained that the country "bent" the pandemic curve in April following the Luzon-wide lockdown in March but is now seeing an increase in COVID-19 infections following the easing of virus restrictions last month.

It can be recalled that the government placed Luzon, home to half of the country's 100-million population, under strict lockdown from mid-March to May. 

It was only in June when the government started to largely ease lockdowns across the country.

"This means we bent the curve in April after the March ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) but we are seeing an increase in cases due to the expanded testing capacity and community transmission as we allow movement of people," Duque said in a tweet.

"Ang mahalaga ay ma-maintain ang bilang ng mga kaso at manageable levels para hindi natin ma-overwhelm at mapagod ang ating health care workers. Kaya’t importante na sundin natin ang minimum health protocols- magsuot ng mask, maghugas ng kamay, at mag-physical distancing," he added.

(What is important is to maintain the number of cases at manageable levels so as not to overwhelm our health care workers. It's important to follow minimum health protocols- wear face masks, wash your hands, observe physical distancing.)

Last month, Duque also used Twitter to clarify his remarks blaming his staff for the delay in the release of the law-mandated benefits for health workers who died or were infected with COVID-19.

Duque's latest statement comes even as several hospitals reported full occupancy of their coronavirus wards.

On Monday, the health department reported that despite the continued spread of COVID-19, the Philippines has improved its case doubling time to 8.18 days nationwide. 

This means that the number of new cases is taking longer to double in number. The case doubling time is even longer for Metro Manila at 8.89 days and Cebu City at 8.25 days.

"Sa bilang ng mga kaso po na iniulat namin nitong mga nakaraang buwan, para sa buwan ng Hulyo naga-average tayo ng 766 new cases per day ayon sa date of onset of illness," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Monday.

(In terms of new cases being reported over the past few months, for July, we are averaging 766 new cases per day based on the date of onset of illness.)

"Mas mataas po ito kumpara sa nakita nating average number of cases per day noong Hunyo dahil po sa pagtaas ng bilang ng mga kaso sa binabantayan nating lugar at dahil na rin po sa pagdami ng bilang ng clusters of community transmission na nakikita natin," she added.

(This is higher than the average number of cases per day in June because of the higher number of cases in places that we are monitoring and also because of the additional number of clusters of community transmissions that we are seeing.)

As of July 14, the Philippines has confirmed 57,545 cases of COVID-19. This includes 1,603 deaths and 20,459 recoveries.

- with a report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News