COVID-19 task force spokesman refutes Health Chief's statement on second wave

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 21) — Harry Roque, spokesperson of the COVID-19 task force, on Thursday refuted the claim of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that the Philippines is currently in a "second wave" of coronavirus infections.

In his press briefing today, Roque, who is is also the spokesperson of President Rodrigo Duterte, insisted that the country is still in the "first wave" of the pandemic, saying he consulted three health experts on the matter.

This effectively debunked the statement of Duque yesterday that the first three cases of COVID-19 in the country were the first burst of infections that comprised the first wave of the health crisis in the country.

Roque did not directly invalidate the Health Secretary's claim, but said the confusion may be due to different interpretations of data.

"Ang tingin ng marami — at marami naman po tayong kinonsulta — kailangan basahin yan na kabahagi lamang ng isang wave... Ang tatlong iyon ay napakaliit para maging isang wave. Sabihin nating hindi nagkamali, pero nagkaroon ng kakaibang opinyon," he explained.

[Translation: We consulted health experts who said those first three cases were only part of the first wave. Those three cases are too few to be considered a first wave. Let's not say he made a mistake, rather there was a difference in the opinion.]

Duque's statement at the Senate hearing on Wednesday surprised and alarmed the public. He cited findings of epidemiologist Dr. John Wong, who explained that a wave is the rise and fall in cases and that the country's first three cases in January were the first wave.

Wong said the second wave began in March, but senators were skeptical that the number of infections had flattened in the "first wave" since the government has so far failed to reach its target testing capacity of 30,000 per day.

Roque pointed out that Duque had not informed President Duterte about his conclusions before appearing in the Senate hearing.

"Meron po tayong protocol na sinusunod. Lahat ng impormasyon, dahil meron nga po tayong kalihim sa DOH, ipararating muna sa Presidente at ang Presidente ang magsasabi sa taong bayan, either personally or through our office. Pero hindi po dumaan sa protocol na iyan," he said.

[Translation: We follow a protocol. All information is sent to the President and he will make the announcement, either personally or through his spokesperson. But this time, it did not go through the protocol.]

Despite the government's conflicting statements, Roque insisted the Duterte administration remains in sync with its policies and pronouncements.

"Medyo sintonado lang siguro ang isa, pero okay naman po ang orchestra," he added.

[Translation: One person was out of sync, but the orchestra remains in tune.]