Marcos declares COVID health emergency over | Inquirer News

Marcos declares COVID health emergency over

Marcos declares COVID health emergency over

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has lifted the nationwide state of public health emergency due to COVID-19, ending over three years of various degrees of pandemic restrictions that had crippled the economy and reversed anti-poverty gains.

“All prior orders, memoranda, and issuances that are effective only during the State of Public Health Emergency shall be deemed withdrawn, revoked or canceled and shall no longer be in effect,” the president said in Proclamation No. 297 he signed on Friday.


The president said all emergency use authorization (EUA) issued for vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020, will remain valid for one year from Friday “for the sole purposes of exhausting the remaining vaccines.”


Protocols lifted

After the expiration of the EUA authorized under Executive Order No. 121 by then-President Rodrigo Duterte, COVID-19 vaccines will need a certificate of product registration (CPR) to allow drug manufacturers to sell and distribute the shots.

Marcos ordered all agencies to ensure that their policies, rules, and regulations will take into consideration the lifting of the state of public health emergency and amend existing rules or promulgate new ones.

Following the presidential proclamation, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa on Saturday said all COVID-19 protocols were lifted. He said the remaining vaccines in the government stockpile procured under the EUA may still be administered for free to eligible individuals for another year.

“Consequently, the requirement for wearing masks in public transportation and other settings as specified in [Executive Order No.] 7 is now considered rescinded,” the health chief clarified. Under EO 7, the wearing of face masks is optional except in medical facilities and mass transport.

Rep. Angelica Natasha Co, vice chair of the health committee of the House of Representatives, said the government must keep pushing hard to give the jabs to the vulnerable, unvaccinated, and unboosted Filipinos even after the public health emergency had been lifted.

She said the Department of Health (DOH) should continue to acquire enough vaccines, especially bivalent boosters.


Co urged the FDA to approve more CPRs for COVID-19 vaccines. The Department of Trade and Industry should also make them more available and accessible to individuals with a doctor’s prescription.

“The CPR should include the vaccines and boosters acquired prior to the expiry of the emergency use authorizations one year from now, so they can still be used for as long as they are not yet expired,” she added.

Where PH stands

The latest DOH figures showed that as of March 20, some 78.4 million people had been fully vaccinated in the Philippines, or 100.4 percent of the government target.

Over 23.8 million of them had availed of the first booster shots, while 4.4 million had yet to get their second boosters.DOH data on July 14 showed only 48,354 individuals availed of the more than 390,000 available bivalent vaccines as their third booster shot under the government’s vaccination drive. Only healthcare workers and seniors are eligible at the moment to receive the free bivalent jabs donated by the Lithuanian government.

The President said that although COVID-19 “remains to be a serious concern for certain subpopulation and requires continued public health response,” the country had maintained sufficient healthcare system capacity and low hospital bed utilization rates.

As a result of continued immunization and a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases, the government opened its borders and relaxed health and safety protocols.

In October last year, Marcos issued Executive Order No. 3, allowing the voluntary wearing of face masks in indoor and outdoor settings throughout the Philippines. Herbosa earlier said the state of public health emergency in the country had been “de facto lifted” with the easing of pandemic protocols like the mandatory wearing of face masks.

He said that he told the president that COVID-19 was now considered by health workers as similar to other illnesses like coughs, colds, and influenza.

Still be vigilant

In a statement on Saturday, the DOH said that it was “crucial to recognize that while the state of public health emergency is lifted, we must remain vigilant and proactive in our approach to health and safety.”

Dr. Rontgene Solante, an infectious disease expert who had served as the DOH’s vaccine expert panel member, said available antiviral medications for COVID-19 continue to be effective in preventing severe cases among the high-risk vulnerable populations, even against new Omicron variants.

Duterte declared a nationwide public health emergency on March 8, 2020.

Based on monitoring by the Inquirer, the country recorded its biggest single-day case count on Jan. 15, 2022, with 39,004 confirmed infected with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes severe respiratory disease. At the time, 280,813 people were ill with COVID-19.

Speaker Martin Romualdez said the President’s move would help in economic recovery.

“It’s time for it because you will see that all over the world, that is the direction of the trend. We now have adequate information, medical support, and health care to provide for any future and potential outbreaks,” he told reporters on Saturday.

The pandemic battered the economy and the Philippines slid into its worst post-World War II recession, with a record 9.5-percent drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. This was aggravated by the onslaught of natural disasters, like the January 2020 Taal Volcano eruption and a string of strong typhoons.

Government statistics showed that some 4.5 million Filipinos lost their jobs in 2020. The average unemployment rate went up to 10.3 percent that year, the highest in 15 years.

The pandemic pushed 2.3 million Filipinos into poverty. Based on the results of the family income and expenditure survey for 2021, about 19.99 million, or 18.1 percent of the population were considered poor, reversing prepandemic poverty-reduction gains. Last year, the economy showed a strong recovery, with a GDP growth of 7.6 percent, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Global trends

In lifting the health emergency, Marcos cited the May report of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) which pointed to the decreasing trend in COVID-19 deaths, a decline in hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and the high levels of population immunity to the virus.

He also referred to a statement by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who said that COVID-19 “no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern” and advised the transition to long-term management of the pandemic.

Since the country logged its first-ever COVID-19 case, a Chinese woman who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan, China, on Jan. 30, 2020, a total of 4,171,063 people in the country had been infected by the novel coronavirus. The death toll as of Friday stood at 66,542.

Healthcare workers had expressed concerns that the distribution of health emergency allowance might be halted with the lifting of the public health emergency. They called on the government to guarantee the implementation of the law that provided them with allowances and other benefits and to continue these after the termination of the national emergency.

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Under Republic Act No. 11712 enacted in April 2022, healthcare workers assigned to COVID-19 wards are entitled to a monthly allowance ranging from P3,000 to P9,000, depending on the level of risk they were exposed to.

The grant of these benefits applies only during a public health emergency, but health workers are saying that the government should still give them the allowances that had not been paid during the pandemic.



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TAGS: Department of Health, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., PH COVID-19 cases, Teodoro Herbosa

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