Marcos is ‘inclined’ to lift public health emergency over COVID-19. What will that mean?

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Marcos is �inclined� to lift public health emergency over COVID-19. What will that mean?
Shoppers wear face masks as protection against the COVID-19 while inside a market in Marikina City taken on July 17, 2022.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is inclined to lift the state of public health emergency due to COVID-19, the country’s health chief said Tuesday. 

“Yes, actually this was one his first instructions to me: to really get out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Health Secretary Ted Herbosa said in a briefing when asked if Marcos is inclined to end the state of emergency declaration. 

Herbosa said they were just waiting for a formal order on the matter. 

“The IATF resolution for this was issued by my predecessor [Maria Rosario] Vergeire. That’s not yet signed. I will follow it up,” he said. 

The new health chief earlier said that he wants the state of public health emergency lifted as the COVID-19 pandemic no longer constitutes a crisis. He noted that physicians now consider COVID-19 “as just one of the respiratory diseases.”

The World Health Organization announced in May that it was ending the public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, it declared for COVID-19 more than three years ago. PHEIC is the WHO’s highest level of alert.

Even if the WHO declared an end to the global emergency status for COVID-19, the United Nations health agency warned that the threat remains.

What happens when the public health emergency declaration is lifted?

The state of public health emergency will remain in effect unless lifted or withdrawn by the sitting president.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte on March 8, 2020 declared a state of public health emergency due to COVID-19 to facilitate the implementation of mandatory reporting, and enforce quarantine and disease control prevention measures. 

The declaration of a state of public health emergency also capacitates government agencies and local government units to immediately act to prevent loss of life, utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19, and mitigate its effects on the community.

Once the declaration is lifted, the Food and Drug Administration will no longer be able to issue emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines. 

But last week, the Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to Pfizer to sell and distribute its bivalent COVID-19 jabs, allowing Filipinos to get access to life-saving vaccines even if the public health emergency gets lifted. 

“I think that obstacle is gone because [a certificate of product registration] has been issued,” Herbosa said. 

If the declaration is withdrawn, the special allowance of healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients will also end. 

The Philippines has confirmed over 4.1 million COVID-19 infections, with more than 66,000 fatalities, since the pandemic began in early 2020. There were 6,846 active cases as of Monday.

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