Fighting over ‘waves’, is government unified in fighting COVID-19?

May. 24, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Government officials contradicting each other on what wave the country is now facing the COVID-19 pandemic raises concerns from doctors. Is the government unified in its assessment and approach to fight the virus?

Last May 20, Duque claimed on an online congressional hearing that the country is now on the “second wave” of COVID-19 infection, saying the first wave started last January with cases of three Chinese nationals arriving from Wuhan.

But this was refuted by other officials, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who said government is still in the midst of unifying their differences in terminologies.

Duque later retracted his statement saying he was merely stating an “epidemiologic fact”.

The inconsistency has brought confusion and fear from the public, says Dr. Geneve Reyes, Secretary General of Health Action for Human Rights.

“We are still in the first phase in fighting the virus. Based on the DOH (Department of Health) data, including the backlogs in the processing and verification of specimens, there is no flattening of the curve nor the end of the first wave,” Reyes said.

Dr. Gene Nisperos of Community Medicine Development Foundation said that these quarrel over medical jargon is an attempt to hide the real COVID-19 situation on the country.

“We are not done with the first wave and we cannot even determine the spread of the disease due to the lack of mass testing,” he added.

Nisperos explained mass testing is crucial in determining the right programs and interventions in addressing the disease.

“Mass testing is only the first step. There is no data if there is no testing. We do not know the enemy and how widespread the infection if no mass testing is done,” he said.

As of May 23 the DOH has reported 13,777 cases of COVID-19 with 3,177 recoveries and 863 deaths.

But doctors are concerned how government has filled its task force against COVID-19 with military officials with Duque relegated to a minor role.

The government’s Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) formed last March is headed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, which includes the Armed Forces Chief of Staff and three retired generals appointed in cabinet positions.

Dr.Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of Cure Covid, pointed out the presence of military generals are untrained in addressing a public health issue, and has raised instead issues of human rights abuses during the enhanced community quarantine.

Meanwhile, calls for Duque’s resignation was raised anew, this time by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, who pointed out his series of statements inconsistent with medical reports on COVID-19 “is another inability to lead the country’s pandemic response as its top health official.” (

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