Palace: Duque's 'flattened' COVID-19 curve remark a case of word choice mistake
File photo of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
The STAR/ Mong Pintolo
Palace: Duque's 'flattened' COVID-19 curve remark a case of word choice mistake
Alexis Romero ( - July 16, 2020 - 6:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III did not get a dressing down from President Duterte for claiming that the Philippines has flattened the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) curve, a remark that he immediately took back after drawing widespread criticism.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said it was just a case of wrong choice of words for Duque, who made the remark during a pre-State of the Nation Address forum last Wednesday.

"Wala pong pagsabon na nangyari at ako naman noong matapos nangyari iyan, tumawag kaagad sa akin si Secretary Duque ‘no at sinabi nga niya na parang mali iyong salitang nagamit niya. Sabi ko, korekin lang natin (There was no dressing down. After that, Secretary Duque called me immediately and told me that he had used the wrong words. I said, 'Let's just correct it,'" Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

"Who among the media can claim that he has not committed mistakes? So it was just corrected. It was not flattened. He meant it has been bended, the increase in the cases slowed after we imposed ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) and MGCQ (modified general community quarantine)," he added.

During last Wednesday's forum, Duque claimed the country has "successfully flattened the curve since April." He cited the longer case and mortality doubling time of the COVID-19 infection.

Duque's statement drew backlash, prompting him to clarify that the COVID-19 curve was "bent," not flattened in April.  He also claimed that the increase in infections was due to "expanded testing capacity" and community transmission as the government allowed the movement of people.

It was not the first time Duque was pummelled for his pronouncement. Last May, the health said the Philippines is already in the second wave of COVID-19, a view not shared by Palace officials and some health experts. Duque has taken back the statement, which he claimed was based on an article published by John Wong of the EpiMetrics.

Roque said the country has been recording more COVID-19 cases since the economy was opened. He claimed that the implementation of community quarantine has been "very very effective."

"I think what’s more important for people to realize is we have tremendously expanded our testing capacity. We have expanded not just our capacity but the number of actual testing that we’re doing. We’re hitting 25,000 a day now these past few days," the Palace spokesman told CNN Philippines.

"I think what we will see in the next few days is that while the numbers will increase, over time it will slow down, the case doubling rate will slow down because we are not (allowing) mild and asymptomatic individuals who have no capacity to isolate themselves in their homes... Over a period of time, perhaps this next two weeks and we’re really hoping that it happens,  we will see a significant decrease in the number of cases," he added.

Roque said the Philippines "might even come close to actually flattening the curve" if people heed the warning made by the President that he would not hesitate to place Metro Manila under a more stringent quarantine if necessary.

"At some point, we were starting to flatten the curve... But unfortunately, because of the opening of the economy and also because of intensified testing, it did not continue," he said.

Roque said the number of infected persons in the Philippines would have reached 6.3 million if the government did not place some areas under enhanced or modified enhanced community quarantine.

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