AFP / Kevin Tristan Espiritu
The Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines has stated that the state of public health emergency related to COVID-19 has been “de facto” lifted. Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa made the announcement during a press briefing at Malacañang, stating that wearing face masks is now optional and COVID-19 is treated like common respiratory disease. President Marcos has shown inclination to lift the emergency status and instructed the Health Secretary to “get out of the COVID pandemic.” The DOH is waiting for a resolution from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to formally lift the state of emergency. Herbosa mentioned that the obstacle of acquiring bivalent vaccines has been resolved, with the availability of a certificate of product registration. The lifting of the COVID health emergency will be released soon. The DOH emphasized the need for continued vaccination and protection for vulnerable individuals, despite the improving pandemic situation. Additionally, infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante suggested including young individuals aged five to 17 in the priority groups for bivalent vaccination. The government is negotiating for additional bivalent vaccine doses, as donations may not be sufficient for the vulnerable population.