MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has clarified that the country is currently experiencing its “first major wave of sustained transmission” of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Duque issued the clarification a day after he stated in a Senate hearing Wednesday that the Philippines is on its second wave of COVID-19 infections.
“Ikinorek ko na nga rin po ang aking sarili na this is the first major wave of a sustained community transmission,” the DOH chief said during a virtual meeting with the House committee on health where he was asked to explain his statement.
Duque, however, maintained that his statement during the Senate hearing was a “casual expression of an epidemiological fact.”
“Indeed, there was a first wave but very small which consisted of just three imported cases in January,” he said, referring to the country’s first three cases, all of whom are Chinese national who travelled from the pandemic’s source, China’s City of Wuhan.
“Then we had nothing for February, and then this was followed by a bigger wave which is now what we consider as first major wave of sustained community transmission,” he added.
“Ang mahalaga po rito, que ito po ay first o second wave, ay iangat natin ang kapasidad po ng ating system mentras napababa natin ang bilang ng mga bagong kaso kada araw,” he further stated.
Duque’s earlier remark triggered public confusion, and prompted Malacañang to clarify his claim.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the country is still in the first wave of infections and that Duque should have informed President Rodrigo Duterte about his interpretation of the COVID-19 data.
The DOH also apologized over the confusion that the Health chief’s statement had caused.
Dr. Beverly Ho, director of DOH Health Promotion and Communications Service, said the country is still on its first wave, at least the one driven by local community transmission.
“Kung matatandaan nyo po, local community transmission happened nung nagsimula po tayong mag-report ng cases ng mga kababayan natin na walang exposure sa mga positive cases o kaya walang travel history,” Ho said during a televised briefing.
The DOH in early March confirmed there was a presence of local transmission of the virus and became the basis for raising the alert level in the country.
Ho also reminded the public to continue observing physical distancing measures and health protocols, and maintain good hygiene to beat COVID-19.
As of May 21, the Philippines has recorded 13,434 confirmed coronavirus infections, with 846 fatalities and 3,000 recoveries. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)
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