Senators twit Duque over 'flattened the curve' claim
File photo of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
The STAR/ Mong Pintolo

Senators twit Duque over 'flattened the curve' claim

( - July 15, 2020 - 6:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was quick to correct his statement Wednesday that the country had "flattened the curve" in the rise of COVID-19 cases but not before two senators called him out on it.

"The only thing that is flat are the backs of all the poor patients in fully occupied covid wards all around Metro Manila fighting for their lives! Wag mag bulag-bulagan (don't ignore what's happening) and act to stop the surge instead of imagining it," Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri said on Twitter.

On his own Twitter account, Senator Francis Pangilinan said that it was as if Duque existed on another planet to arrive at such a conclusion.

Duque’s definition of flattening the curve goes against those in other countries where flattening means a consistent decrease in daily cases. In the Philippines, there has been a spike in coronavirus infections since the government began further relaxing quarantine rules last month.

To date, the Philippines has a caseload of 58,850—of that number,36,260 are active cases. The surge in the number of infections is increasing pressure on hospitals, with several medical centers announcing they had reached full capacity of beds allocated for COVID-19 patients.

The country has the second highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia with over 76,000 cases.

READ: Cases still rising but Duque says Philippines has flattened coronavirus curve

A researcher from the University of the Philippines earlier warned that COVID-19 cases in the country could reach 65,000 by the end of July and over 100,000 by the end of August.

The embattled health secretary

Hours after he was criticized over his remarks, Duque took to Twitter to walk back the claim, saying that the country had instead “bent the curve in April” after the implementation of an enhanced commuity quarantine in March.

He also claimed that the increase in cases is "due to the expanded testing capacity and community transmission as we allow movement of people." 

He said this even as latest data from DOH shows that the government has yet to test 1% of the population and is racing against the clock to meet its goal of testing 1.5% of Filipinos by the end of the month. 

READ: COVID-19 task force approves plan to bolster national testing Roque: We could've 'done better' by expanding COVID-19 testing capacity in January

This is not the first time Duque has drawn the ire of senators for his handling of the country's response to the novel coronavirus.

In April, a month into the pandemic-induced lockdown, at least 14 senators called for the health secretary's resignation.

READ: Senators call on Duque to quit over COVID-19 response 

In May, he told the Senate during a hearing that the country was dealing with the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak—a statement that medical experts and other Cabinet officials refuted.

He also repeatedly said in the same inquiry that the Philippines had “flattened the curve,” which he defined as the stabilizing of new infections per day.

READ: 'Second wave' of COVID-19 cases is here — Duque

The DOH later on clarified the country was still experiencing the first wave of sustained community transmission.— Bella Perez-Rubio with reports from Gaea Cabico

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