Politics

DoH says no word yet from Marcos on COVID-19 state of calamity extension

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PHILIPPINE STAR/WALTER BOLLOZOS

PRESIDENT FERDINAND R. Marcos, Jr. has yet to decide whether he will extend the COVID-19 state of calamity in the Philippines, according to a Health official.   

There has been “no categorical and no official response” yet from Mr. Marcos to the Department of Health’s (DoH) request for an extension of the state of calamity, Maria Rosario S. Vergeire, the agency’s acting chief, told a news briefing.  

“But indirectly, the president already has verbalized in one of his media outings that he is very hesitant to extend the state of calamity,” she said. 

Ms. Vergeire said that her agency submitted in December a recommendation to the Office of the President for the status extension.  

In a Dec. 23 meeting, officials discussed the “implications and options” that the government can take “if and when the state of calamity will not be extended,” according to Ms. Vergeire.  

Mr. Marcos has yet to appoint a full-time Health secretary, despite the threats posed by emerging coronavirus variants and subvariants. In December, he said he was not keen to lengthen the emergency status, noting it’s a “wrong mindset” to start the New Year with.   

Nevertheless, the DoH has already begun preparing in case the extension is not granted by the President,” Ms. Vergeire said. “Coming from there, from his statement, we are already preparing in parallel so that we can continue on with the other things we do for this response.”  

The senior Health official said the government can still continue with its COVID-19 vaccination program because doses that are authorized for emergency use can still be utilized for a year after the official end of the state of calamity.  

About 73.82 million Filipinos had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, 21.29 million of whom received booster shots, according to a DoH bulletin released Monday.  

Ms. Vergeire said the country’s pandemic task force will meet with local leaders on Feb. 1 to discuss a plan to “decouple” restrictions from the alert levels. “These are consultations actually about or regarding their capacity to implement safeguards once we decouple the restrictions.”  

The Philippines, where the death toll from the coronavirus has reached about 60,000, is more equipped now in dealing with the pandemic, Ms. Vergeire said at the briefing. 

“We are quite confident as of this time compared to two years ago when we started to respond to this pandemic in terms of our healthcare utilization.”  

At present, hospitals are better prepared and have more capacity to respond, she claimed.

Hospital admissions “are very manageable,” she added. Severe and critical cases are becoming “less and less.”  

COVID-19 was the 11th leading cause of death in the country, according to a Jan. 23 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). 

In 2021, the agency said COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the country.  

The PSA report showed that ischemic heart diseases remained the leading cause of deaths in the Philippines. 

Cerebrovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, hypertensive diseases, pneumonia, other heart diseases, chronic lower respiratory diseases were also on the list of top 10 causes of deaths among Filipinos. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza