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Marcos: Philippines still needs measures to deal with COVID-19

There is still a need to continue the state of calamity amid COVID-19 while government looks for ways to "normalize" the situation, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said on Thursday.

"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," Marcos said in an interview with reporters.

Marcos indicated that the state of calamity was also needed to be in place for faster procurement, for the importation of vaccines, and for the indemnification fund to be in place in case their use go awry.

"All of these will disappear pag tinaggal 'yung state of calamity," Marcos said.

"Pero sa ngayon naghahanap kami ng paraan para ma-normalize na natin at hindi na natin kailangan sabihin na ang Pilipinas state of calamity pa rin," he added.

(All of these will disappear if we remove the state of calamity. But we are now looking for ways normalize things and we may not need to say that the Philippines is still under a state of calamity.)

Marcos made the remarks after he was asked about his plan to appoint a permanent secretary of health and if there would be restrictions in the movement of the public due to the detection of more subvariants.

"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 tourist," Marcos said.

"It does not help if we are still under a state of calamity, if we are the only country that still has a mask protocol... but these are mandated to us by the laws that were passed during the pandemic so kailangan pa nating ayusin 'yun (we still need to have that fixed)," he added.

"And until that's fixed... those changes, in the case of the DOH it’s not structural changes, but in the case of DOH it’s the method of handling the pandemic... we must treat the pandemic no longer as an emergency but something that we will have to manage forever...  it’s like flu, like pneumonia," Marcos said.

Following a recommendation from the National Disaster Risk-Reduction and Management Council, Marcos extended the state of calamity throughout the country due to COVID-19 until December 31, 2022.

The Philippines already detected 81 cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant and 193 cases of the XBC variant. The DOH said the cases of XBB were detected in Western Visayas and Davao Region.