DESPITE the continued easing of restrictions in the country, the Department of Health has asked Malacañang to extend the COVID-19 state of calamity, which is set to end on December 31, 2022.
DOH officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department submitted a memo to President Marcos to request the extension after Congress failed to approve on time the measure that would establish a Center for Disease Control in the country.
The proposed CDC is supposed to take the lead in addressing public health emergencies.
Vergeire said that if the state of calamity is not extended, the country’s COVID-19 vaccination drive and the emergency hiring of health care workers would be affected.
Waiting for a response
She said DOH officials met with the Office of the Presidential Management Staff and other concerned agencies last week to explain its proposed extension as well as its other options.
“We are just waiting for the official response of the Office of the President in terms of this memo that we have submitted to them,” she said in a press briefing.
Effects of non-extension
If the state of calamity would not be extended, she said the government’s programs to address the pandemic would be sidelined.
“We would be losing the different response strategies that we are doing right now,” she said.
This would include the COVID-19 vaccination program, which is anchored on the state of calamity provision of the law.
“Kaya kapag nawala yun, baka mahirapan tayo magpatupad ng pagbabakuna natin ng COVID-19,” she said.
She noted that the COVID-19 vaccines and medicines being used in the country are covered only by an emergency use authority, which was issued due to the state of calamity.
The indemnification and immunity from liability regarding the vaccine be affected as well, she added.
The hiring of health care personnel and their benefits would be affected as well if the state of calamity is lifted, she said.
“Emergency hiring, emergency allowance ng health care workers natin kasama din diyan,” she said.
In September, President Marcos extended the nationwide state of calamity declaration first issued by his predecessor in March 2020.
The extension was done in order to allow the national government and local government units to continue delivering COVID-19 interventions, including the vaccination program, and to utilize appropriate funds in their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Under a state of calamity, government agencies have more leeway to use funds for disaster preparedness and response efforts.