Marcos says Covid health crisis ‘de facto’ lifted: Health department chief

During a press conference, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa mentioned the President’s choice to make mask-wearing optional.

Jean Mangaluz

Jean Mangaluz

Philippine Daily Inquirer


President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos / INQUIRER PHOTO FILES

July 5, 2023

MANILA — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos believes the Philipines’ COVID-19 health emergency has been “de facto” lifted.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa mentioned the President’s choice to make mask-wearing optional.

During an ambush interview in Malacañang, Herbosa was asked about the President’s stance on his recommendation to lift the state of a public health emergency.

“Ang sabi niya kasi de facto na parang naka-lift na rin tayo, ‘di ba? Kaya ngayon, optional na ang masking, ‘di ba?” Herbosa said referring to the President.

(He said it was like it had been lifted de facto, right? That is why masking is optional now.)

Herbosa said that the Department of Health only awaits the formal declaration. When asked when the formal order of the President will be announced, he said: “Soon.”

“His instruction to me is really to recover from COVID and be able to get back the economy. We’ve lost a lot in the economy from the restrictions,” said Herbosa.

During the press conference, Herbosa said that the Interagency Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had already recommended the emergency’s lifting but the Office of the President had to review the proposal further.

“The IATF already recommended the lifting, but I think the Office of the President had to study some things that were the consequences of the lifting officially. One is the vaccine issue, because the EUA—Emergency Use Authorization—to get the bivalents,” said Herbosa.

Herbosa, however, noted that Pfizer was already given a Certificate of Product Registration from the Food and Drug Administration, making bivalent vaccines commercially available.

“Ang delay lang is that Pfizer is looking for the retailers that have the -70° freezers kasi nga it requires storage that has a cold chain,” said Herbosa.

(The only delay is that Pfizer is looking for retailers with the -70° freezers because it requires storage with a cold chain.)

The Health chief said the responsibility for procuring such freezers may fall on the hospital pharmacy or regional administrators. Herbosa said it’s possible the monovalent vaccines may still be given out for free when the health emergency is over.

“We can still distribute them, I think they’re still valid as booster doses. Most of the demand now is the bivalent vaccine, because that is the better version. It has all the omicron variants also,” he said.

Herbosa said, however, that people still need to protect themselves, even if the state of emergency is lifted.

“You still have to protect yourself. I think the public health warning is you still have to protect yourself if you are vulnerable, and you still need to get the vaccine if you want to be specially protected,” said Herbosa.

This is a developing story.

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