ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Top officials of the Duterte administration have started preparations for a COVID-19 pandemic exit plan that would be implemented next month.
National Action Plan on COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez on Tuesday, February 15, said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) would meet and tackle a so-called “endgame plan” as the country transitions to a new normal – that is, a COVID-19 endemic.
The government, he said, was also preparing to conclude its two-year COVID-19 pandemic response as it moves closer toward the vaccination of 70% to 80% of the Philippine population.
Dr. Norvie Jalani, an epidemiologist at the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC), said the pronouncement simply meant that the government has already accepted that COVID-19 would become “permanently present” in the country.
“We have talked about this in the IATF before. We will be meeting on Wednesday (February 23) about the implementation of new normal measures, which we call ‘endgame plan,’ by the first week of March,” said Galvez.
Under the new normal, he said, restriction levels would be lowered further as the government slowly opens up the country’s economy in phases knowing full well that the majority of citizens had been vaccinated.
Galvez said the government was keen on transitioning to endemic response this March because officials expect to see the majority of the country’s schoolchildren and teenagers fully inoculated by then.
But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire had said the country was not at endemicity yet. (READ: COVID-19 Weekly Watch: Coronavirus disease still far from being endemic in PH)
“If we look at our state now, we don’t see these yet. First, we can’t call our cases stable…. Nothing is certain at this point. We don’t know when cases might go up yet [again], if a new variant will emerge, and if it will be more transmissible or severe.” – Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and is an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship