Flattening the Curve
DOH OFFICIALS claimed on several occasions that government had “flattened the curve” of the pandemic. Media in most cases simply quoted their statements.
In a media forum on May 5, 2020 DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire claimed that the country is “starting to experience a flattening of the COVID-19 curve.”
Most reports repeated the figures without checking whether the numbers had declined, which “flattening the curve” is understood to mean. Without understanding what they are reporting, reporters may be passing on dubious information. Journalists cannot simply record and repeat what others say, but should check the veracity of authorities’ claims.
During a “Cure COVID” press briefing on May 8, Dr. Felix Muga from the Department of Mathematics of the Ateneo de Manila University cautioned the public about what the government was saying. Notably, news.ABS-CBN.com and Rappler cited Muga, who showed that the epidemic curve or the number of daily new cases reported by the DOH was still moving upward.
In a pre-State of the Nation Address forum on July 15, as cases continued to rise in the NCR and Central Visayas, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III claimed that, “We have successfully flattened the curve since April.”
He cited the slowdown of COVID-19 infections’ doubling time and the decreasing mortality rate as his bases. But in reaction to the ensuing criticism of his statement, Duque “clarified” in a series of tweets hours later that the curve had only been “bent.”
Most news organizations reported criticism of Duque’s claim, and noted the surge in the number of cases. A few went beyond reporting and flagged the mistake by providing their own analysis, and citing experts.
In June, when Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that government was “winning” against COVID-19 despite the continued rise of cases across the country, the media were more critical. Roque’s reaction followed a Philippine Daily Inquirer article citing a WHO report which ranked the Philippines first among countries with the highest rate of infections in the Western Pacific region. Other media organizations also picked up the information and pointed out the government’s defensive stance and to question outright the claim that the country was “winning” against the pandemic.
The reports cited various sources who called on government to address the growing number of cases, instead of manipulating the data. Some reports stood out for exposing the government’s spin of the numbers to improve public perception.
In a crisis as grave as a pandemic, the government should be open with the people by providing a truthful assessment of the threat. Hiding behind propaganda endangers lives by lulling the public into not observing the health protocols needed for their protection.
READ CMFR MONITORS ON THE ISSUE:
- “At this point, the discourse on media should no longer be afflicted with this kind of ignorance. By now, government and experts should have clarified amongst themselves the terms of the pandemic, the interpretation of what is happening as cases increase or decrease, what is meant by the technical language related to the treatment and transmission of the disease.” | Media flag Duque’s “flattening the curve” claim
- “Facts checked. Context checked. It is what the press is supposed to do. It is in the interest of the public that journalism lay bare the bad news. Comparing the national situation to what other countries have done can help citizens prod the government to do better.” | Is the PH “winning” against COVID: Media debunks government’s spin on WHO report?