The Philippines is once again seeing an upward trend in the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases being reported daily. With this, many are asking if the country is now facing a second “wave” of the coronavirus due to these fresh spikes.
For three consecutive days, March 5 to 7, the country has recorded 3,000 new infections per day. The last time that the country had recorded such a number was in October 2020.
The Philippines saw a surge in cases in July to August 2020 – where up to 6,000 cases were then reported daily.
Amid the fresh spikes in the daily reported cases, the Department of Health (DOH) said it would like to veer away from the use of the term “wave.”
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a text message to the Manila Bulletin on Monday, March 8, said: “The term wave does not have any epidemiologic definitions, that is why we don’t use it.”
“There is a marked increase in the number of cases and compared to the previous increase in cases last year, we can see similar trends in the number of cases,” she added.
On March 7, DOH Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega acknowledged that the rise in cases is “alarming.”
Despite this, he assured that necessary precautionary measures are being undertaken in the hospitals. “If you look at the data…there is an increase in the number of active cases,” he said.
However, health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon believes that the country is now facing a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
“We are on the second wave from the following metrics. This is a scary trend for COVID cases,” the former adviser to the government’s National Task Force against COVID-19 said in a text message to the Manila Bulletin.
Leachon noted the increase in the number of cases for the last three days, “high positivity rate of 9.2 percent,” and the threat of the South African and United Kingdom variants of coronavirus.
“Reports coming from medical colleagues and hospital leaders about disturbing increase in COVID cases with a healthcare system starting to be overwhelmed should not be ignored,” said Leachon.
“The threat of new variants is real and can’t be overemphasized. We need to be responsible citizens in following our health protocols. This is the time to be vigilant more than ever,” he added.
For Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine unit of San Lazaro Hospital, “the increase in cases is significant enough to be called a second wave.” “Why second wave? Our cases have plateaued for the last three months, from November, December, and January – with a reproduction number of 1.2 to 1.3. We almost flattened the curve (in the) last three months,” he said in a text message.
The country’s current number of cases, Solante said, “surged to the level we experienced last August.”
Measures to mitigate the situation
Meanwhile, Solante explained that it is important to continue to follow the minimum health standards. “This is always emphasized but people tend to relax in complying (with these) protocols,” he said.
People should also avoid gatherings and crowded places. “This is the opposite of what our government is doing now by opening up cinemas, gaming arcade, and theme parks,” said Solante.
Solante also emphasized to “limit the mobility of people through localized lockdowns.” He said that “only essential workers should be allowed to work or go out (and) maintain restricting mobility of those 15 to 17 and those 60 and above.”
The government authorities should also ensure “adequate ventilation and physical distance in public transport and terminals,” said Solante.
“Suspend F2F (face-to-face) meetings and gatherings especially in restaurants, hotels, and other establishments,” he added.
Solante and Leachon also said it is important that the government should fast track the vaccination rollout.
“We should fast track the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) approvals of other reliable vaccines given the worrisome surges now to expand our vaccination ASAP (as soon as possible) with multiple choices and reduce vaccine hesitancy,” said Leachon.
Leachon furthered that ‘’aside from an agile local government units leadership in preventing spreads through granular lockdowns, build up of healthcare capacities, we need to protect our healthcare workers. They should be given top priority in the vaccination program with the available vaccines we have right now.”
He also added that “massive testings, quick genomic surveillance and contact tracings are needed.”