Senators on Friday doubted statements made by the Department of Health (DOH) that the country has started flattening the curve on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said data shows that COVID-19 cases in the country are still increasing by the day, rather than declining.
“So is the curve now flattened? I have my doubts,” stressed Drilon in rejecting the claims of DOH officials and the some health experts that we are seeing indications of flattening the curve of COVID-19.
Drilon also said the highest consideration should be the people’s lives when the government decides to lift the quarantine.
“Whether an area should be under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or General Community Quarantine (GCQ) is a health issue, more than anything,” Drilon said.
For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the government needs to have solid data first before making adjustments on the prevailing lockdown— from ECQ to GCQ or until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is developed.
“As a health reform advocate, it is difficult for me to accept that we have flattened the curve. We still do not have the 100% ang mass testing so until mass test is not yet completed… it might be premature to say the curve has been flattened,” explained Hontiveros.
If the basis to ease the lockdown is the flattening of the curve, Hontiveros emphasized that it is still too early to say this.
She noted that the capacity of the local government units to implement quarantine should also be considered.
She also cited the need for the DOH to report the accurate number of those who were tested.
“How many were tested based on the number so we will know if we are already there… if we have the number, we will know what to do.. before our workers go back to work.
“We can use the rapid and RT-PCT tests,” she said.
On the other hand, Senator Francis Tolentino said only cities and municipalities considered as “COVID-19 hot spots” should remain under an ECQ even after its expiration on May 15.
Sought for her comments on a possible metrowide extension of ECQ as cities and municipalities in the National Capital Region are interconnected, DOH Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said decision depends on the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19.
Vergeire said the DOH continues to increase the health system’s capacity as there are now indications that the country is starting to flatten the COVID-19 curve, citing the observation of epidemiologist Dr. John Wong who is working with the IATF’s sub-technical working group (TWG) on data analytics.
While the curve has started to flatten, she said they grabbed that opportunity to ramp up, to raise the health system’s capacity to be able to deal with the threat.
Wong recently said that the “doubling time”—or the duration in days for cases or deaths to double—in the number of cases and deaths has slowed down, saying that “from doubling every less than three days, now it is doubling around four days.”
The epidemiologist noted that even if the flattening of the curve is now being observed, it does not signify that the COVID-19 outbreak will end anytime soon, adding that mitigation measures should be properly observed to avoid resurgence of cases.
“So, this is the second wave, since the first wave was in January. After this flattening of the curve and then when we relax the ECQ, we will see another surge of cases, maybe a third wave,” he said.
Tolentino believes the country can lax on the lockdown as long as proper safeguards will be maintained like social distancing especially in public transport systems.
Tolentino said the DOH should double its testing efforts this time to involve private companies and their employees. /Stacy Ang