President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will consider the recommendations of the Department of Health (DOH) on whether to extend the COVID-19 state of calamity, which expires on Sept. 12, a Palace spokesperson said Thursday.
“It will depend on the recommendation of the DOH, but we will make the announcement when the time comes,” said Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, when asked if the state of calamity, declared by President Rodrigo Duterte, would be extended.
The state of calamity was first declared on March 16, 2020 and extended three times.
In his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, Marcos promised that he would no longer declare restrictive lockdowns even as COVID-19 cases increased.
Instead, he wants the government to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccination and booster drive to achieve its target of administering at least 23 million booster shots within his first 100 days in office.
Metro Manila and other parts of the country continue to be under Alert Level 1 until Aug. 15.
Marking the celebration of Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week in Pampanga, Marcos reiterated his call for Congress to pass legislation creating the country’s own virology institute and Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as he paid tribute to Filipino health researchers for their continuing sacrifice and hard work during the pandemic.
Marcos said the two institutes can help the country prepare for and respond to pandemics.
“As your President, I hope my presence here today gives a clear signal that this administration continues to support your endeavors so that together, we can create an enabling environment for the Filipino research community that fosters collaboration and cooperation that will yield solutions that will make lives better for our fellow men and women,” he said.
Marcos said the immediate passage of a measure creating the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) would “consolidate disparate research, knowledge, and data,” while the passage of a bill creating the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control would prepare the country for “unfortunate warnings” concerning pandemics.
Citing his own experience after contracting COVID-19 for the first time in March 2020, Marcos said “intellectual humility” helped researchers hone their competencies and gain new insights from other experts.
“For the first time in our experience, I asked the doctor what was happening, and he said, ‘I don’t know.’ ‘What are you going to do to cure me?’ ‘We don’t know.’ That is the situation that we were in.
There was a total lack of information, or knowledge about this new pandemic.”
“That is why the work that you did, that developed – the genome sequencing so that we could follow and identify and detect the different strains as they came about, the tests kits that you were able to develop for the local community, the modeling that was done – this was all a fruit and of your partnership, and it is something that has never been seen before,” he said.
In other developments:
• Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said she will still pursue the Senate investigation into the estimated P5 billion to P13 billion worth of expired COVID-19 vaccines even after COVAX facility’s commitment to replace the expired doses. “The investigation will continue even if they replace the expiring vaccines. Someone has been negligent. Hence, he or she should be accountable,” she said in Filipino. “Those responsible for the wastage can’t just rely on COVAX to clean up their mess.”
• New COVID-19 infections in the province of Iloilo and Iloilo City are now going down, based on their reproduction number and case growth rate in the recent week, the independent OCTA Research Group said Thursday. In a tweet, OCTA fellow Guido David said that Iloilo City’s reproduction number or the number of people infected by one case, declined from 1.05 on July 31 to 0.92 on Aug. 7. The city also recorded a negative 18 percent one-week growth rate of COVID-19 cases. Iloilo province’s reproduction number also decreased from 1.06 to 0.96 over the same period, while its one-week growth rate was at negative 11 percent.
• Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte called on local government unit (LGU) executives to work closely with the Departments of Education (DepEd), Health (DOH), and the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in putting up anti-COVID 19 vaccine centers in their respective localities. He said such a move would complement Malacañang’s drive to ensure the safe return of students and their teachers to schools this coming school year.