Philippines begins exploring pandemic exit plan, says official

Jekki Pascual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 02 2022 03:17 PM | Updated as of Feb 02 2022 05:21 PM

Residents spend time outdoors at the Paraiso ng Batang Maynila on Januray 16, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Residents spend time outdoors at the Paraiso ng Batang Maynila on Januray 16, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News



MANILA - The Philippine government will begin to explore its "pandemic exit plan" as soon as COVID-19 cases start to decline, Presidential Adviser on COVID-19 Response Vince Dizon said Wednesday. 

Once the nationwide cases dip to below 1,000 per day, the country can start transitioning to the "endemic phase" or a time when the public learns to live with the virus, Dizon said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay online forum.

"I think we will begin with the transition this February. We just need to really bring down the cases to the levels hopefully that we have them late last year, below 1,000 cases per day," he said. 

"And then, we can already begin really the process of transitioning from a pandemic framework to a more endemic framework," he added.

Part of the pandemic exit plan is to look into the possibility of removing the Alert Level System, as proposed by the business community led by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.

Concepcion has been pushing for the shift to the endemic mindset.

He said the pandemic exit plan must include the removal of the alert level system in the country, especially in areas that already have high vaccination rate.

"Kasama po 'yan sa mga pag-aaralan at idi-discuss (that's part of the discussion) as we transition from the pandemic framework together with the entire world to a more endemic way of handling and mitigating the risks of COVID-19," Dizon said. 

Details of the pandemic exit plan, which is currently being put together, will be released within the month, Dizon said.

The government, meanwhile, remains focused on pushing for vaccination, he said.

Currently, the country has an oversupply of vaccines which is seen as key in transitioning to the endemic phase, the official said, adding that almost all cities have 70 percent and higher vaccination rate.

Very few cities in the Visayas and Mindanao have below 70 percent full vaccination rate, he said.

Concepcion urged the coronavirus task force to take cue from other economies that have already transitioned to the endemic phase. 

Other Western countries have already started to learn to live with the virus by practicing health protocols without the need for a lockdown, he said.

"In a typhoon situation, you don't have the typhoon signal # 1 hoisted all the time. When there is no typhoon, there should be no typhoon signal," Concepcion said.

"So what we are proposing is, and we will be discussing this with the private sector and Sec. Vince, is that what is bare minimum health protocol. Katulad dito sa Amerika, walang alert level dito (just like here in the US, there are no alert levels here)."

Part of the proposed pandemic exit plan is to just strictly implement health protocols. Concepcion said requiring to show the vaccine booster card in shops in the future may be mandated. 

Dizon and Concepcion are confident COVID-19 cases will continue to decline this month and urged the public to get vaccinated, including getting the booster shot as, according to them, it is among the important conditions to exit the pandemic.

The Department of Health on Tuesday reported 9,493 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the first time the nationwide daily tally went below 10,000 for nearly a month.

The country saw a spike in new infections since late December through last month due to the omicron variant.

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