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 Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (left), and National Action Plan Against Covid-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (right), inspect the swab testing facility at the Palacio De Maynila along Roxas Boulevard, Manila on Tuesday (May 5, 2020) / PNA

Duque needed in Covid-19 response

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is needed in the government's continuing fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), according to Malacañang Palace.

The statement was issued even after Duque recently claimed that the country is now experiencing the second wave of Covid-19 cases, a pronouncement that had been opposed by Malacañang.

Despite Duque’s recent remarks, he still has to perform his duty as the country’s Health chief to address the Covid-19 outbreak, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“Secretary Duque will answer allegations in the proper forum but for now let us allow him to do his job during this global health emergency,” Roque said in a press statement.

Roque made the statement a day after the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) called for Duque’s resignation following the Health chief’s supposedly alarming claim that the country is already on the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Roque said Duque continues to fulfill his mandate “at the pleasure” of President Rodrigo Duterte, especially amid the Covid-19 crisis.

“Secretary Francisco Duque III serves at the pleasure of the appointing authority, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in this challenging time,” he said.

Duque, in a hybrid Senate hearing on Wednesday, bared that the Philippines is “actually” on the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Duque’s pronouncement was backed up by Dr. John Wong, an epidemiology expert who is also part of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Wong said the second wave of Covid-19 infections peaked at the end of March.

However, Cabinet officials, including Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, refuted Duque’s claim.

Roque on Thursday also said that Duque’s interpretation of “waves” differed from other experts.

Roque said that while medical experts may have a different interpretation of scientific data, Palace relied more on other experts’ opinions that the country remains on the first wave.

Also on Thursday, Duque backtracked on his earlier pronouncement, saying that the Philippines is still in its “first major wave of sustained transmission” of Covid-19.

As of May 21, the Philippines has reported 13,434 Covid-19 infections, with 846 fatalities and 3,000 recoveries.

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