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Our Covid Curve Continues To Spike—Does This Signal That We Are On The Second Wave?

Between the confusing claims of a first and second wave, and the late and inaccurate reporting of data, our country remains at high risk

It's been 2 months and 17 days since the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was announced in the whole of Luzon, and yet, the Philippines continues to struggle in handling this pandemic. And even though we have followed the footsteps of other countries who have started easing their lockdowns, we are far from their successes in creating a concrete plan to put a stop to new infections and deaths.


So where is the Philippines exactly in its fight against Covid-19?

As of writing, the Philippines has a total of 18,638 confirmed cases, with 960 deaths and 3,979 recoveries. This puts us at 39th out of 215 countries with the most Covid-19 cases in the world, and the 3rd country with the most cases in Southeast Asia.


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What does our curve look like?

The whole point of the ECQ was to “flatten” the curve and to keep lowering the infection rate so our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed and we have less carriers of the virus around. However, months after the first case was reported in the Philippines, our curve continues to spike at an alarming rate, with the daily infections showing no sign of slowing down.


In the last week alone, we’ve seen a spike in new reported cases. There were 552 new reported cases on June 1, 862 cases on May 31, 590 new cases on May 30, and 1,046 new cases on May 29. The consistent and even increasing numbers of new Covid-19 cases has made our curve wildly unstable, with a new spike because of the latest reports.


Endcoronavirus.org, an international organization made up of scientists, business owners, and volunteer citizens, have included the Philippines in the “countries that need to take action” because of our non-flattening curve.



In comparison, this is at least what our curve should’ve looked like if we wanted to be part of the “countries that are nearly there.”


These are the curves of countries who are doing well in beating Covid-19:


Inconsistencies in data?

The problem is, there is so much inconsistency and late reporting when it comes to our Covid-19 numbers. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained on ABS-CBN News that the new cases are not actually all fresh cases—some are delayed reports from days before.


As seen in the DOH’s new daily infographic showing new and total cases, they segregate fresh and late cases to be transparent about the influx of late reported cases. On June 3, 751 new cases were reported—221 of those are called fresh cases, while 530 are late results.


DOH

Vergeire explains that this is only temporary and that many countries also experience the same problem.


Another problem that was reported by ABS-CBN News recently is that the DOH found duplicates in the list of Covid-19 test results as they clear the backlog in their reports. According to Vergeire, they found that some of the cases that were reported positive by other laboratories were also filed positive by other laboratories, resulting in duplication of cases. This is why even though the Philippines has logged more than 24,866 positive unique individuals from the 335,726 tested for the disease as of June 1, only some 18,000 were confirmed as coronavirus cases.


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Are we on the second wave of infections?

Because of the inconsistencies in data reporting, the lack of testing, and the delayed test results, we currently really could not say what our Covid-19 curve means for our country.


On May 20, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III made a statement that we are already on the second wave of Covid-19 infections. According to Duque, this is in line with the findings of epidemiologist Dr. John Wong and other experts who claimed that the first wave is actually the first three cases that was reported in January. That was followed by a lull, and then followed by the second wave, which we started to experience in late March and continues until now.


This remark has since been retracted by the Palace, explaining that we are still currently on the first wave.


Dr. Mary Grace Dacuma, a molecular epidemiologist and professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños, tells ABS-CBN News that the first confirmed cases should not be considered as a “first wave” but only as “index cases” that do not form part of the epidemic wave since they did not contract the disease from community transmission. The lull that was experienced between that and the surge of cases in March was actually the incubation period that led to the first wave of infections.


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Will the spike and reinfections lead to a real second wave?

Since the spike in new cases is actually just a shadow of old unreported cases, we can’t say for sure that we are indeed on our way to flattening the curve until DOH finishes its backlog of reports.


However, reinfections remain a huge concern as this could lead to Covid-19 becoming the new “common cold,” a regular disease that will now plague our new normal.


Currently, according to the World Health Organization, we still don’t have enough evidence whether Covid-19 patients are capable of being reinfected or immunized after getting the disease. This issue has been brought up since there have been a number of patients in South Korea who have tested positive, and then tested negative, only to test positive again and experience Covid-19 symptoms.


Health officials in South Korea says that it is likely that it’s a “reactivation” of the virus, which meant that the virus actually never left their system and that the patient was never fully cured.




Now, in a research published by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they found that recovered Covid-19 patients who recovered aren’t found to be infectious anymore and have developed neutralizing antibodies—which immunizes and protects them from getting sick again. Even those who got reinfected again because of the virus reactivating did not show to be infectious.


Manila has just entered the GCQ last June 1, and with the late test results, it means we will only fully grasp the consequences of this GCQ in the next weeks. As we remain hopeful, we encourage everyone to stay at home as much as possible, and observe proper hygiene and mask etiquette when going outside.