CNN Philippines — The country is now experiencing its "second wave" or surge of COVID-19 cases, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told the Senate on Wednesday.
"Actually nasa second wave tayo," said Duque in a virtual Senate hearing. "Ginagawa natin ang lahat para maflatten 'yung epidemic curve at para magkaroon tayo ng sapat na panahon na mapaunlad at mapataas ang ating kakayahan sa sistemang pankalusugan."
However, he did not detail when the second wave began, only that the country's first COVID-19 cases recorded in January involving three Chinese nationals, were considered the first wave of infections.
Just two days ago, an expert told CNN Philippines that the first wave may still be ongoing.
"There are some scientists who are saying we just pushed the first peak farther, that means we bought time. And as soon as we opened up, the peak will go up," said Ted Herbosa, medical adviser to the National Task Force on COVID-19.
“So some even say this is still the first wave just delayed by about 50 days of ECQ (enhanced community quarantine)," he added. "The other thing is that we’ve already flattened it and the peak will happen from external sources, other sources."
Experts use the viral disease's "reproductive number" to determine the country's progress in the COVID-19 battle, with the goal being the statistic to drop to a value below one. Herbosa noted that the country was able to lower the rate to about 0.6 during the height of the ECQ implementation, but latest data show the number is hovering around 1.
The COVID-19 national tally broke the 13,000 mark on Wednesday with a death toll of 842 and recoveries reaching 2,932.
Secretary Duque said the Health Department is now focused on preventing a third wave of cases as quarantine restrictions slowly ease. He said the agency is working on ensuring that "minimum health standards" such as reducing vulnerability, reducing transmission and reducing contact, are followed.
Reducing vulnerability means "increasing physical and mental resilience," Duque said, through adopting a healthy lifestyle while reducing transmission refers to preventive measures such as wearing face masks, practicing cough etiquette and using disinfectants. On the other hand, reducing contact pertains to physical distancing or keeping people at least a meter apart.
The Health Department had earlier repeatedly warned the public of a possible "second wave" or surge of COVID-19 infections should the public stop practicing preventive measures and social distancing.
Metro Manila, Laguna and Cebu City have been under modified enhanced community quarantine for the past few days, which has allowed more businesses to resume operations. Meanwhile, low-risk areas are under general community quarantine with even lighter restrictions.