MANILA—President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has issued a directive to study whether or not the COVID-19-induced state of calamity in the country should be extended beyond its September validity, a health department official said on Friday.
According to the Department of Health officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the department has instructed the Food and Drug Administration to coordinate with COVID vaccine manufacturers to determine their readiness to apply for a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR), needed to make COVID jabs commercially available.
“’Yung state of calamity, pinag-aaralang maigi. He has instructed that this be studied throughly, kasi maraming nakarugtong. If we lift the state of calamity by September, naka-link dyan ‘yung emergency use ng bakuna… clearances or certificates ng COVID-19 drugs… healthcare workers benefits... at murang presyo ng gamot. May price caps because of this public health emergency. All of these would be affected if we lift state of calamity or the state of public health emergency in the country,” Vergeire said.
“We have instructed the Food and Drug Administration to start informing our (COVID vaccine) manufacturers and try to coordinate with them, kung sino na ang pwede mag-CPR para sakaling ma-lift ang state of calamity, may magkaka-CPR na, hindi tayo magkaka-problema sa gamit ng ating mga bakuna as well as our drugs,” she added.
Vergeire said before the state of calamity is lifted, the wall of immunity against COVID-19 should be high, by ramping up booster coverage.
Over 71.4 million individuals have been fully vaccinated against COVID in the Philippines. Only around 15.8 million received the first booster.
“In terms of booster, kasama sa directives, kailangan mataas na. Kailangan kumpyansa ang Presidente, kumpyansa rin tayo sa public na kapag nag-lift tayo ng state of public health emergency, kaya natin ma-manage ang kaso and that can only happen if our wall of immunity is high, by having these first booster shots na mataas din sa ating population,” Vergeire said.
On Friday afternoon, she visited a COVID vaccination site and a primary care center in Marikina City. The LGU has fully vaccinated more than its target population, and administered the first booster on 71% of its eligible population.
“We are thinking of incentivizing ‘yung pagbabakuna. We have a birthday subsidy for seniors. We’ll try to synchronize our vaccination schedule with the provision of the birthday subsidy… We are organizing a team that will do home visit para makapagbakuna tayo,” Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro said.
Based on DOH’s projection, new COVID infections in the country can reach anywhere between 3,000 to as high as 11,000 a day by end of July.
“We have our own projections also that the range of cases might be by the end of July, we might reach 3,000 cases or it can be more, like up to 11,000, based on the assumptions that we use, katulad ng minimum public health standards compliance, ‘yung ating mobility patterns, ‘yung behavior din ng tao, ‘yung pag-interact natin sa isa’t isa and the waning immunity,” Vergeire said.
“At the end of the day, tumataas ang mga kaso, tumataas ang ating positivity rate across all areas, we just need to be reminded to be cautious,” she added.
The Philippines recorded 3,389 fresh COVID cases on Friday, the highest daily tally in more than five months or since February 12. Over a third of these cases are in Metro Manila.
Vergeire said the average daily attack rate in NCR is now at moderate risk after the number of individuals testing positive for COVID per 100,000 population exceeded 6.
But since only 32.1% of hospital beds dedicated to COVID patients are occupied in Metro Manila, the region remains at low-risk classification for COVID.
“The average daily attack rate is 6.25, pero ang healthcare utilization po is less than 50%. That means kapag kinross tabulate sa bagong metrics, it is still at low risk. So lahat pa rin ng areas natin sa bansa is at low risk, because our healthcare utilization ay hindi tumataas,” Vergeire said.
On the new omicron subvariant BA.2.75 nicknamed Centaurus, which was detected abroad, the DOH said initial evidence shows it is more transmissible than other subvariants.
“Sinasabi nila this would be much transmissible compared to the other subvariants of Omicron. Pero ang ebidensya para makapagsabi kung ito ay mas severe and critical ang pino-produce, hindi pa kumpleto. This is being monitored by our international epidemiologists and experts,” Vergeire said.
Meantime, the DOH said no case of monkeypox has been detected in the Philippines so far.
“The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the UP Philippine Genome Center is already capable of detecting the monkeypox. We had been receiving samples from the start … sa lahat naman po ng tinest natin, negatibo lahat sa monkeypox,” Vergeire said.
“We already have mobilized our surveillance system, kung saan lahat ng surveillance officers natin, implementing units, including our ports are well oriented at alam ang gagawin."