By Jeanne Michael Penaranda
MANILA – President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said he is considering extending the validity of the state of public health emergency first proclaimed in March 2020 amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Marcos said lifting the state of emergency, which is slated to last until September 12, would invalidate the emergency use authorization and compassionate special permits issued by the Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19 vaccines.
“Yes, we were just discussing it with Usec. [Ma. Rosario] Vergeire. Kasi maraming mga binibigay sa international medical community kapag state of emergency. WHO [World Health Organization] is one of them,” Marcos said in a chance interview.
In the United States earlier, the Biden administration last July extended the Covid-19 public health emergency for another three months, CNN reported.
Marcos made the statement as he acknowledged that the presence of Omicron subvariants remains a problem that needs to be addressed.
As of August 16, data from the Department of Health showed that there were 3,838,062 COVID-19 cases nationwide. Of this number, 36,190 are active cases.
The DOH reported that more than 72 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
In another development, Marcos Jr. received his booster shot against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Marcos received the additional dose against coronavirus during his attendance to the “PinasLakas” vaccine campaign at the Department of Health (DOH) vaccination site in SM City Manila.
In his speech, Marcos said he decided to get the booster shot to prove that the vaccine is important to strengthen immunity against severe Covid-19 infection.
“We will take our [booster] shot,” Marcos said, adding that he wants to “show everyone that it is safe, it is effective, and it is needed.”
Meanwhile, the country has detected 1,011 more cases of the Omicron BA.5 subvariant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
The Department of Health said at least one person from all regions except Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has tested positive for the BA.5 subvariant.
About 336 are from Western Visayas, 82 from the National Capital Region (NCR), 79 from Central Luzon, 75 from Calabarzon, 72 from Ilocos Region, 70 from Bicol Region, 67 from Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), 48 from Soccksargen, 44 from Mimaropa, 34 from Northern Mindanao, 27 from Caraga, 26 from Central Visayas, 25 from Cagayan Valley, 17 from Davao Region, five from Zamboanga Peninsula, one from Eastern Visayas, and three returning overseas Filipinos.
Of the tally, 690 are fully vaccinated, 12 are partially vaccinated, three are unvaccinated, while the vaccination status of the remaining 306 individuals is still being verified. Their exposures and travel histories are also being verified.
About 907 individuals are now tagged as recovered, 53 are still undergoing isolation, two have died, and the outcomes of the remaining 49 are still being verified.
In a media interview during the “PinasLakas” vaccine campaign at SM City Manila, Marcos said he is discussing with Department of Health (DOH) Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire the possible extension of the state of public health emergency “until the end of the year.”
“Yes, we were just discussing it with Usec. Vergeire,” Marcos said.
Marcos said there was also a plan to amend the law on government procurement “in the middle of an emergency.”
He was referring to Republic Act (RA) 11525 or the act expediting the vaccine procurement and administration process.
Vergeire said the DOH is recommending amending the provisions of RA 11525, in case the state of calamity declaration due to the Covid-19 pandemic is not extended.
Vergeire noted that apart from the national Covid-19 vaccination drive, there are other protocols linked with the declaration of state of calamity, including the emergency use authority for coronavirus jabs, emergency procurement of vaccines, tax exemptions for vaccine manufacturers and donors, price caps on medicines used for Covid-19 treatment, and additional benefits of healthcare workers.
It was on March 16, 2020 when former President Rodrigo Duterte first declared a state of calamity all throughout the country for six months because of the threat posed by the Covid-19.
On Sept. 2020, Duterte extended the state of calamity for another year, or until Sept. 12, 2021 through Proclamation 1021.
Duterte, by virtue of Proclamation 1218, again extended the state of calamity throughout the country for one year from Sept. 13, 2021 to Sept. 12, 2022.
Proclamation 1218 states that the extension will allow the national government, as well as local governments, to continue the implementation of Covid-19 vaccination program, augment pandemic response funds, monitor and control prices of basic necessities and prime commodities, and provide basic services to the affected populations.