PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Thursday he will appoint a Department of Health (DoH) secretary once the country’s Covid-19 pandemic situation has “normalized.”
In an interview with reporters, Marcos maintained that the Philippines must first be lifted from its state of public health emergency and state of calamity before he can appoint a health chief.
“We have to get away from the emergency stance of the DoH because we have to open up businesses. We have to make the Philippines more hospitable to travelers — both business and tourists — and it does not help if we are still under a state of calamity, if we are the only country that still has mask protocol. … Kailangan pa nating ayusin ‘yun (We still need to fix that),” he told reporters at the Manila Hotel.
“We must treat the pandemic no longer, we must treat Covid no longer as an emergency but something that we will have to manage forever. It’s like flu, like pneumonia. Nandyan lagi yan pero mag-ingat tayo para hindi tayo magkasakit (It’s always there, but we must be careful not to get sick), and that is [the] way we should be handling Covid.”
Marcos acknowledged that it would be difficult to immediately lift the state of public health emergency and state of calamity as it would directly affect the DoH’s current handling of the health crisis.
“We cannot remove ourselves yet from the way we are handling it dahil halimbawa pag tinanggal ko ‘yung state of calamity, hindi makukuha ng ating mga health workers ‘yung kanilang benepisyo na nasa batas, hindi tayo makakapag-import ng vaccine, yung sa procurement, masyadong mabagal ang magiging procurement (We cannot remove ourselves yet from the way we are handling it because if we lift the state of calamity, our health care workers won’t get the benefits due them, according to the law. We won’t be able to import vaccines, procurement would be slow),” he said.
The President said the government is in the process of finding ways to normalize the Covid-19 situation to encourage investors to do business in the country.
He said the same rule applies to the Department of Agriculture, which he heads “for now.”
Despite the detection of the Omicron XBB subvariant and XBC variant in the country, Marcos said it is time to treat the pandemic differently.
“I want the people to understand that this is the government’s work. Not everything is a crisis so i-normalize natin ang trabaho ng gobyerno (let’s normalize government work),” he said.
He noted that deaths due to Covid-19 have been minimal, and mostly among those with co-morbidities.
“What we have to understand about Covid and the way that we are treating it is that the risk factor of getting Covid in 2022 is very, very different from the risk factor of getting Covid in 2020 or 2021 and that is indicated by the hospitalizations and the rate of the death,” he added.
In July, Marcos appointed Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire as the officer in charge of the Health department.
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