DOH: First COVID-19 wave was in January; 2nd wave started in March and has already flattened

PHL must do its best to prevent another major wave, says health expert


(Eagle News) – The Department of Health said that the country is actually already on the second wave of COVID-19 cases, and that it had actually started by the first week of March.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told a Senate hearing that the first wave happened last January when the country had three cases from Chinese tourists who came to the country, one of whom had died.

The DOH said that the second wave, which is also considered the country’s first major wave, happened in the first week of March.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that what actually counts is the first major wave, which is the current wave that the country is experiencing right now.

“For us, regular people, what counts is the major wave,” she said in a virtual presser of the DOH on Wednesday, May 20.

And this current wave, technically the second wave of the country and also its first major wave, is already flattening, according to DOH and other health experts.

First, Vergeire noted that for the past five week, the new cases had been averaging at 220 per day, slowing the COVID-19 doubling time

“Itong five weeks matagal na ring panahon. It is longer than the incubation period of the virus,” she said.

The DOH and health experts also cited the slowed doubling time of the COVID-19 from two days to around five or six days. Virus-related deaths have also significantly decreased as more persons undergo early testing and are isolated and treated early.

But Vergeire said that this is still no time to relax, as the country should avoid another major wave from happening

-Epidemiological expert analyzes PHL’s COVID waves-

Health and epidemiology expert, Dr. John Wong also noted that the first wave was a very small one as these were just three cases of Chinese tourists.

A wave is described as a rise and fall of cases.

“The January set of cases was a very small wave,” he said.

“Since there was a slight rise in cases followed by a fall, we consider that as a wave,” Dr. Wong said.

At that time, there was no local transmission of the disease yet.  The month of February was “relatively quiet” and the country’s health managers thought that they had managed the virus.

But by the first week of March, the cases started rising again as the local transmission of the virus was confirmed.

This is considered the second wave, and also the country’s first major wave, Dr. Wong noted.

But this second wave is already flattening largely because of the lockdown and quarantine protocols implemented by the government, the DOH said.

“We’re now on the trough or the lower part of the wave, of the second wave,” Dr. Wong said.

“The second wave peaked sometime at the end of March at 538 cases and has since gone down to about 220 cases a day,” he noted.

Wong said that “what we want to avoid is that we’ll have another tip or several more tips.”

-Preventing a third wave-

“So we’ll try to postpone third or subsequent waves,”  he said.

Wong said that if the country had not imposed the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on March 17, the country would have had higher than 530 cases a day.

After President Rodrigo Duterte impose ECQ, the cases started to decrease he noted.

That intervention was timely, Dr. Wong said.  If it had not been done, the line would have gone “straight up” and “exceeded the health care capacity.”

The ECQ had helped flatten the curve, which means flattening the curve in relation to the country’s health system capacity, including the number of available hospitals beds, ICU beds and mechanical ventilators, he said.

(Eagle News Service)