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Saturday, July 22, 2023

Marcos Jr.'s Grand Exit: 'Health Emergency' Vanishes Into Thin Air

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In a significant development, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has officially lifted the state of public health emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The lifting of the nationwide declaration was announced by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil. Proclamation 297, issued by President Marcos Jr. on Friday, calls for the withdrawal, revocation, or cancellation of all prior orders, memoranda, and issuances that were effective only during the State of Public Health Emergency. This article explores the implications of this decision, including the continuity of emergency use authorizations (EUAs) issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the country's current health care system capacity.

The Context

Former President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency on March 8, 2020, following the first confirmed transmission of Covid-19 in the country as reported by the Department of Health (DOH). However, as of [Date of Proclamation 297], the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) observed positive trends, such as a decrease in Covid-related deaths, declining hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions, as well as a high level of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2.

Based on the committee's advice, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concurred on May 5, [Year], that Covid-19 no longer constituted a public health emergency of international concern. The WHO recommended transitioning to the long-term management of the pandemic. Subsequently, President Marcos Jr. announced that the country was already "on normal footing" after the WHO lifted the global state of public health emergency in May [Year].

Implications of Proclamation 297

1. Policies and Regulations Adjustment

With the lifting of the state of public health emergency, all government agencies are required to reevaluate and amend their existing policies, rules, and regulations. This review is to ensure that the changes consider the current scenario of Covid-19 in the country. The move towards normalcy calls for a comprehensive assessment of the evolving situation and necessitates adjustments to align with the changing needs of the population and public health goals.

2. Validity of Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs)

The FDA had issued emergency use authorizations for Covid-19 vaccines under Executive Order 121 in 2020, valid only within the duration of the declared public health emergency. However, according to Proclamation 297, all EUAs issued under EO 121 will remain valid for one year from the date of the proclamation, "for the sole purposes of exhausting the remaining vaccines." This implies that any remaining vaccine stock will still be eligible for emergency use during this transitional period.

3. Continued Public Health Response

While the state of public health emergency has been lifted, it is crucial to recognize that Covid-19 remains a serious concern, particularly for specific subpopulations. President Marcos Jr.'s proclamation acknowledges the need for a continued public health response. The government and health authorities must maintain vigilance in monitoring the Covid-19 situation, identifying potential outbreaks, and implementing targeted interventions to protect vulnerable populations.

4. Healthcare System Capacity

One of the factors considered in lifting the state of public health emergency was the country's healthcare system capacity. Despite the liberalization of Covid-19 health protocols, the Philippines has been successful in maintaining sufficient healthcare system capacity and low hospital bed utilization rates. This is a positive sign indicating that the country's healthcare system can handle the current Covid-19 situation without overwhelming demand.

Future Measures and Preparedness

Even with the lifting of the state of public health emergency, it is essential to emphasize the significance of preparedness and future measures to combat any potential resurgence of Covid-19 or emerging variants. The following steps can be taken to ensure the country remains resilient:

1. Vaccination Drive Continuation

The Department of Health (DOH) must continue its efforts in administering free vaccines against Covid-19. Widespread vaccination remains a crucial strategy to achieve herd immunity and reduce the transmission of the virus. The DOH should also consider expanding vaccination efforts to include booster shots for vulnerable populations to enhance their immunity against Covid-19 and its variants.

2. Surveillance and Monitoring

Health authorities should maintain a robust surveillance and monitoring system to track Covid-19 cases and detect any potential outbreaks promptly. Real-time data analysis can provide valuable insights into the current epidemiological situation, allowing authorities to make informed decisions and respond proactively.

3. Public Awareness and Education

Public awareness and education campaigns should persist to promote responsible behavior and adherence to public health guidelines. Regular updates on Covid-19 developments, vaccine efficacy, and preventive measures can empower the public to make informed choices for their well-being and contribute to collective efforts to combat the pandemic.

4. Collaborative Approach

A collaborative approach involving all stakeholders, including the government, private sector, healthcare professionals, and community leaders, is vital to effectively tackle any future challenges posed by Covid-19. This approach fosters information sharing, resource allocation, and coordinated efforts to optimize the response.


President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s decision to lift the state of public health emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic marks a significant milestone in the country's battle against the virus. It reflects the positive progress made in combating Covid-19 and indicates confidence in the country's healthcare system. However, it is important to acknowledge that the pandemic is not entirely over, and vigilant public health measures must continue.

The lifting of the state of public health emergency presents an opportunity for the government and health authorities to recalibrate their strategies, maintain preparedness, and ensure a smooth transition towards the long-term management of the Covid-19 pandemic. Continued vaccination efforts, surveillance, public awareness, and a collaborative approach will be essential components in safeguarding the health and well-being of the Filipino population in the future.

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