WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The Philippines remains at low risk for COVID-19, though Metro Manila is already back to moderate risk as cases rise.
How is the Marcos administration addressing the health and economic crisis? What are the key developments on the global front that also impact Filipinos?
Bookmark and refresh this page for the latest news updates, opinion articles, and analysis pieces about the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines.
Metro Manila remains under Alert Level 1 until August 31 – DOH
Metro Manila will remain under Alert Level 1 from August 16 to 31, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) de-escalated Occidental Mindoro and Camarines Sur to Alert Level 1, which will also last until August 31. The task force also de-escalated the alert status of Poro in Cebu, Talalora in Samar, and Binidayan and Pualas in Lanao del Sur.
According to the DOH, the de-escalation was due to the areas maintaining their case classification and total beds utilization rates at low risk, and reaching or nearing the vaccination thresholds for the target population and target A2 (senior citizens) priority group.
Senate on ‘total lockdown’ over COVID-19 cases
Senate President Jose Miguel “Migz” Zubiri announced on Friday, August 19, that the Senate building will be on “total lockdown” to facilitate the full disinfection of the facility after several senators and Senate personnel tested positive for COVID-19.
“I have instructed the Secretariat to conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfection of all Senate offices. For this reason, there will be a total lockdown of our Senate building and all Senate employees shall work from home and need not report to the Senate on Monday (22 August 2022). Senate sessions will resume on Tuesday (23 August 2022),” he said.
COA: Gov’t hospital in Palawan should refund overcharged COVID-19 patients
COA says the Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital overcharged COVID-19 patients by P5.27 million for the cost of PPEs, and by P227,417.70 for medicines.
Marcos eyes extension of state of public health emergency in PH till end-2022
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a media interview on Wednesday, August 17, that he would “likely” extend the declaration of a state of public health emergency in the country due to the pandemic until the end of 2022.
Marcos told the media that he considered this after discussions with the Department of Health office in charge, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who informed him that countries under such a declaration get a lot of assistance from the international medical community as well as the World Health Organization.
“At kung itigil natin ‘yung state of emergency, matitigil ‘yun (If we end the state of emergency, that too will stop),” he said, referring to the assistance.
Marcos noted that while the government is looking at “amending the law in terms of procurement and all of that in the middle of an emergency,” this will take time. “So malamang (likely) will extend it (state of public health emergency) until the end of the year.”
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines in March 2020, following the confirmation of the local transmission of COVID-19 in the country.
DOH plans to set up more vaccination sites in schools
The Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday, August 16, that it planned to open more vaccination sites in schools for the safe return of students to their campuses for in-person classes.
So far, the government has set up 3,131 vaccination sites in schools across the country.
“We’re going to add more for our vaccination sites to be visible so that we can further encourage our mothers to have their children vaccinated,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.
DOH setting up wastewater testing to trace COVID-19 infections
The Department of Health has begun setting up systems to test wastewater to trace where COVID-19 infections come from, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing on Tuesday, August 9.
Vergeire said that this was a method used to trace infections when the Philippines dealt with a polio outbreak in 2019. “We were able to see the sources of infection and immediately determine the areas which were at high risk because of this testing for wastewater,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“So it will be the same for COVID-19. It’s going to be part of our regular surveillance, where we will be testing wastewater so that we can identify areas who are really at risk of having this cluster of infections of COVID-19,” she added.
Other countries have used the wastewater testing method, such as Italy.
Philippines ‘exploring’ procurement of next-generation COVID-19 vaccines
The Philippines is “exploring” the opportunity to procure next-generation COVID-19 vaccines specifically targeting Omicron, Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday, August 9.
“The Philippines is going to explore that possibility. We are preparing, and we are going to procure kung saka-sakaling lumabas na siya (if it is released),” she said in a press briefing.
Vergeire said the department has made a budget recommendation to allocate funds for the next-generation vaccines. They would still need to go through the processes other vaccines went through before they were administered to the public, including an assessment from the country’s vaccine expert panel.
The next-generation vaccines currently produced by Moderna are “bivalent.” This means they can target both the original version of COVID-19 and its Omicron variant.
Less vaccine wasted if those with comorbidities got 2nd booster earlier – expert
“There was some element of delay on the part of the DOH to implement the second booster for those with comorbidities,” says infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante.