The Department of Health (DOH) is keeping its guard up against COVID-19 by endorsing its pandemic responses to its different concerned bureaus to “institutionalize” the works of the National Vaccination Operations Center and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, an official said Saturday.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje added the DOH has also introduced the mandate of the Response, Vaccination, and Integration clusters so the gains of their pandemic responses would be sustained.
Cabotaje, who also chairs the NVOC, said the IATF, the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, and the vaccination cluster will endorse all the programs to the incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
This was after the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday it is working to declare an end to the COVID-19 outbreak as a public health emergency of covid…international concern, even as it admitted doing so “doesn’t necessarily mean the pandemic itself will be over.”
“We will leave it up to them. But the IATF, as the overall head of the NTF and even our vaccine cluster, is prepared to hand over the documents and to brief. We just await what will be the directions of the next administration,” Cabotaje said during a televised public briefing.
“Of course, we will also defer to whoever is the new Secretary. We also know that the IATF is lodged with the Department of Health (DOH) and then the measures and the vaccination are largely with the department,” she said.
“It is up to the next administration to decide on the direction, whether they would have an inter-agency or continue the NTF structure or create a new structure,” she said.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Technical Lead for COVID-19, had said:
“What we are trying to work toward this year is to end the emergency; to take the death and devastation of COVID-19 out of all countries, not just some countries.”
“Many countries have announced that their emergency is over, but that the pandemic is not. I think that’s an important distinction,” she said at the sidelines of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO.
Meanwhile, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI) on Saturday said a “slight” increase in hospital admissions due to COVID-19 has been recorded, as the country reported a spike in fresh cases.
“Actually there is a slight increase in admissions but our private hospitals see it as manageable and we are not too worried,” PHAPI President Dr. Jose de Grano said in a public briefing.
On Friday, the health department reported 209 new COVID-19 cases, with Metro Manila posting 86 fresh infections, data processed by the ABS-CBN Data Analytics team showed. The number of active cases, meanwhile, was at 2,422.
“We are seeing a slight increase in the number of active cases although it’s still below 2,500,” said ABS-CBN Data Analytics head
Also, foreign nationals who have received their booster shots against COVID-19 are now allowed to enter the country, a Bureau of Immigration (BI) official said Saturday.
Travelers from other countries are now allowed to enter the Philippines without presenting a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result, so long as they have completed their vaccine shots, BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said.
“Well, it’s good news, our travel restrictions have been loosened further,” Sandoval said at a Laging Handa briefing.
“So, the addition of this, the new update, for those who are fully vaccinated foreign nationals—meaning they already have the primary series—their first and second dose—they are exempted from presenting the RT-PCR prior to departure from their country of origin if they already have a booster.”
Sandoval noted the new guidelines would encourage more foreigners to visit the country.
“If they have booster shots—first and second dose plus booster shot—they are exempted (to present RT-PCR). This is a big thing to really encourage these foreign nationals, our compatriots who already live abroad to come home and visit here in the Philippines,” she added.