Reversing Prior Orders and Issuances
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. took a significant step on Friday, July 21, by issuing Proclamation No. 297, effectively lifting the State of Public Health Emergency across the Philippines in response to COVID-19.
The proclamation brings about notable changes, as it deems all previous orders, memoranda, and issuances that were applicable only during the State of Public Health Emergency as withdrawn, revoked, or canceled, rendering them no longer in effect.
EUAs Remain Valid
In line with the lifting of the State of Public Health Emergency, the proclamation ensures the continuation of the emergency use authorization (EUA) granted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pursuant to Executive Order (EO) No. 121 (s. 2020).
These EUAs will remain valid for one year from the date of lifting the State of Public Health Emergency, solely for the purpose of utilizing the remaining COVID-19 vaccines.
Adjusting Policies and Regulations
The order also calls on all agencies to reconsider their policies, rules, and regulations, considering the recent lifting of the State of Public Health Emergency.
It emphasizes the need to amend existing guidelines or introduce new ones, where appropriate, to accommodate the changing circumstances.
A Brief Look Back
The State of Public Health Emergency was first declared in March 2020 by former President Rodrigo Duterte through Proclamation No. 922, marking the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the nation.
Assessing the Current Situation
Although the lifting of the State of Public Health Emergency is a significant development, the proclamation acknowledges that COVID-19 remains a concern for specific subpopulations. As such, a continued public health response is required to address these ongoing challenges.
A Stable Healthcare System
A positive note accompanies the lifting of the emergency status, as the country has demonstrated the ability to maintain a sufficient healthcare system capacity and keep hospital bed utilization rates low, even after the liberalization of COVID-19 health protocols.
Global Recognition of Progress
In May, the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the encouraging trends in the fight against COVID-19.
This included a decline in COVID-19 deaths, a reduction in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
A Shift in Pandemic Management
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus affirmed that COVID-19 is now considered an established and ongoing health issue based on the advice of the IHR Emergency Committee.
Consequently, it no longer qualifies as a public health emergency of international concern. Furthermore, the WHO strongly advised the adoption of a long-term approach to managing the pandemic.
With the lifting of the State of Public Health Emergency, the nation embarks on a new phase in its fight against COVID-19.
President Marcos Jr.’s proclamation signals significant progress and resilience in navigating these challenging times, while simultaneously emphasizing the continued importance of a comprehensive response to ensure the well-being of all citizens.