Concepcion, experts push lifting of PHL public health emergency

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” A. Concepcion III said the Philippines should lift the state of public health emergency to promote confidence among the population after the country was classified under the lowest travel-risk classification by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Just recently, the CDC placed the Philippines under the lowest-travel risk warning classification. According to America’s leading science-based organization, the Philippines is now in a Level 1 travel risk classification, which is considered the lowest risk classification reserved for countries that have 49 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over the last 28 days.

“It would be just the right time as all over the world, economies are starting to resume normal activity,” Concepcion said.

The Go Negosyo founder emphasized that even countries like Australia, Singapore, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy—which are on CDC’s Level 3 or high-risk category are not under a state of public health emergency.

Concepcion noted that the Philippines should focus on job creation, opening up all areas, resuming face-to-face classes, and encouraging people to return to office.

Concepcion said he believes that Filipinos can already make informed decisions on how to keep themselves safe from Covid-19 and prevent infecting others. Further, he cited an OCTA Research study conducted last March, which found that the majority of Filipinos would continue to wear face masks even after Covid has been under control, with a third even considering wearing masks for a year longer.

“I think wearing of face masks outdoors should now be optional, but it should remain mandatory in indoor situations especially in public transport,” said Concepcion.

For his part, OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco agreed with Concepcion saying that an increasing number of studies are showing that “wearing an N-95 mask after you are vaccinated and boosted will protect you from getting Covid-19 even if everyone else around you is now wearing a mask.”

Austriaco added, “This should reassure the Filipino people that they can protect themselves even as our society begins to relax the outdoor and even indoor mask wearing requirement as other countries have done.”

Public health advocate Dr. Tony Leachon agreed, saying, “People are now aware of how to keep themselves safe, but we must continue reminding them.”

Vaccine Expert Panel member and Infectious Disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante, for his part, said, “we should strictly implement health protocols without the lockdowns.” He also noticed that despite the slight rise in Covid cases, most are mild and no longer require hospitalization.

Dr. Solante and Dr. Marical Limpin, President of the Philippine College of Physicians, believe that as the country moves forward from the pandemic, it should devote its attention to long-term investments such as health infrastructure, particularly in strengthening intervention on emerging and reemerging infections.

“We need to improve our capacity and this will mean putting sufficient investment in it,” said Dr. Limpin.

As observed in other policy changes, the country has been slowly loosening restrictions. In fact, incoming tourists are no longer required to take a Covid-19 swab test so long as they have at least one booster vaccination.

“Because this will not be our final pandemic, we should work on refining our public health warning system,” Concepcion said.

The Go Negosyo founder recommended an alert level system that will be based on health care and ICU bed utilization rates, rather than on infection rates. Conception had earlier suggested a public health warning system that would be similar to typhoon alert warning systems.

He added that inoculation of vaccines and booster doses should continue, emphasizing that it would even be better if the inoculation of second boosters can be expanded to include those 50 years or older.

Meanwhile, Dr. Solante urged the incoming administration to come up with flexible health systems, in order for the country to successfully combat the pandemic.

“We should find ways to move past this pandemic with innovative and highly adaptable health systems, surveillance and diagnostics. That will be the challenge of the next administration,” said Solante.