Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday clarified that what the country currently experiences is the "first major wave of sustained transmission" of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Duque made the remark a day after he said in a Senate hearing that the Philippines is already on the "second wave" of COVID-19 transmission.
During the virtual meeting of the House Committee on Health, Duque was asked to explain why he informed the public just now about the second wave of transmission, and if the country should expect a third wave.
Duque said that what he said during the Senate hearing on Wednesday was a "casual expression of an epidemiologic fact."
"Indeed there was a first wave but very small which consisted of just three imported cases in January," he said.
The health secretary explained that in the epidemiological sense, a wave consists of a rise or a crest, and a decrease or a trough.
"We had nothing for February, and then this was followed by a bigger wave which is now what we consider the first major wave of sustained community transmission," he said.
"Either way, it can be easily construed that where we are today is the first major wave of sustained transmission," he added.
Epidemiologist Dr. John Wong backed Duque's statement that starting from March, the country is on its first wave of sustained community transmission.
"What we expect with this virus, because it's a new virus and very few people have immunity to it, is that we are going to have a series of waves until we get to a vaccine or a treatment," he said.
Wong said the country already hit its COVID-19 peak some time in March and that "we are on the downward side of the curve."
"As long as people can continue to practice the mitigation measures and we can maintain it, we can postpone or delay another wave," he added.
Earlier in the day, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines is still on the first wave of COVID-19 infections.
Roque apologized to the public for the confusion as he admitted that Duque did not inform President Rodrigo Duterte about his interpretation regarding a second wave of infections.
"Nagpapaumanhin po kami kung kayo ay naalarma pero ang katunayan po ang siyensya naman po at importante ang pagbasa sa mga waves para alam natin ang gagawin na response," he said.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also belied Duque's earlier claim that the Philippines is now experiencing the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
As of May 21, the Philippines has a total of 13,434 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 3,000 recoveries and 846 deaths. — RSJ, GMA News