Implications of Duque’s “Second Wave” pronouncement

Many were shocked with the revelation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque in the Senate Hearing Wednesday, May 21, that the Philippines is already on the “Second Wave” of the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Does the closure of the ABS-CBN really created an impact that nobody except Duque knew this information leaving the rest of the Filipinos in the dark?

But what really is a “second wave”?

According to Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist of Toronto Geheral Hospital Research Institute, a second wave of an outbreak is an increase in infections that occurs after a sustained period of time when there are no — or very few — new cases of that illness. In simple terms, the number of cases of an outbreak like the Coronavirus has peaked once, declined for a time being, and increased again the second time. Here we are talking of major increase and not a sporadic one. Said increase is followed by a sustained decline at least for a time being. A decline for a day or two will not count. A couple of week perhaps will do if there are consistent interventions being done such as the implementation of the lockdown, among others, and substantial testings have been made.

Daily recorded Covid-19 cases in the Philippines.

Given that definition and the graph above, the Philippines Covid-19 situation may not therefore qualify to be on the second wave. While a sharp increase is noted in the later part of March, there was no consistent and sustained decline that followed. The sporadic decreases in the new number of cases for a day or two could just be considered as a function of the capacity of the Covid-testing centers. A clear example is when Typhoon Ambo (Vongfong) hit the Bicol Region, the exhaust duct of the Biosafety Cabinet of the Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BRDRL) has been damaged so no new results were released causing a decline in the number of cases. So while the regional office still conducts the swabbing, the analysis of the samples is still being done in the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila which, unfortunately, is already experiencing work backlogs.

Worse, of the 110 million Philippine population, only 207,823 individuals have been tested for Covid-19 as of this writing. The figure is barely 0.002% of the total population. Or, considering that it may be impractical to test all the Filipinos, at least tests have been done to all the members of the communities where initial cases have been found and not just the household members of Covid-19 positive individual which is current practice of the Department of Health. But even this geographical testings will not anymore matter as the government started implementing its Balik-Probinsiya, Bagong Pag-asa Program. With the eagerness of the government to really drive the people from Metro Manila and other urban areas to the provinces, potential carriers may have also been driven away to spread the virus to once Covid-free areas.

Assuming that Duque is correct on his “second wave” claim, then the public had been taken for a ride. The reason why people have been kept inside their homes and the community quarantines extended is to prevent (or at least control) the coming of the second wave. Such an act is therefore irresponsible and further diminishes the credibility not only of the Department but also of the Administration.

First, questions on how the President is managing the country’s finances will continue to sizzle especially now that the government is on a borrowing spree. The initial reasons for the debts is to increase the capacity of the health system to minimize the impact of the second wave. With the country able to ward off the dreaded wave simply means that the current health system is capable enough so why borrow?

Second, Duque’s claim also exposes the soundness of the administration’s economic policy decisions. Lockdowns were imposed and extended increasing the agony of the people having to rely on food packs, and the businessmen having to suffer red balance sheets for lack of operations. If the country is on the second wave without everybody knowing, and yet those decisions were still imposed, this clearly shows that the country’s managers are just making a hit-or-miss decisions.

Duque’s announcement also means that he is trying to monopolize the information and that the DOH is not a team player. Is Duque trying to say that he knows more than anyone else? Or, is he saying that everyone is incompetent including the President so it is better that he makes the announcement himself?

Speaking to reporters during the launch of the Balik Probinsiya Program, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea debunked Duque and said that, “Alam mo, hindi pronouncement ‘yan ng Presidente. Kailan ba lumabas ‘yang second wave? That, we will have to see because as far as I know, wala pa tayo sa second wave. (You know, that’s not a pronouncement of the President. When did the second wave happen? That, we will have to see because as far as I know, we are not yet on the second wave.)”

Lastly, Duque appears to have been detached from the realities on the ground. His pronouncement will, and is already starting to, fuel the anger of the people who haven’t even received the first wave of food packs or financial assistance from the government. As one Netizen puts it, “nasa second wave na pala tayo pero yung tulong nang gobyerno di pa nakaka-first wave” (we are already on the second wave yet the first wave of the government’s help has not even started).”

Of course, nobody wants a second wave. What happened from January to date is already exhausting and the people have suffered enough not only economically but also psychologically. Hopefully, government officials will not torture the people anymore by offering false hopes, wrong analyses, and miscalculations.

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