President Rodrigo Duterte will sign on Monday an executive order declaring a State of Public Health Emergency due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), after local transmission was confirmed this weekend.
As this developed, some P2 billion will also be earmarked to help address the COVID-19 crisis.
Duterte’s move comes “after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino public,” said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
Panelo revealed that a P2-billion supplemental fund to help address the effects of COVID-19 was being prepared.
Duterte’s executive order will be released during Panelo’s regular press briefing in Malacañang.
“There is no need for alarm and worry because from the very start, we are ready,” Panelo said Friday.
The Philippines has confirmed six cases of COVID-19, including a 62-year old man who has no travel history abroad.
The man’s wife has also tested positive for the virus, making her the country’s 6th case.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday raised the country’s alert system to Code Red, Sub-level 1.
According to Secretary Francisco Duque III, this is a “preemptive call” for authorities and health workers to “prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.”
Duque urged Malacañang to declare a state of public health emergency last February 21, when the Philippines only had three confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The move will “be crucial to facilitate the sufficient and immediate access to funding, particularly for local government units, and ease processes on procurement, mandatory reporting, mandatory quarantine, and travel restrictions,” Duque said in a letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
“It would also put to rest questions on whether an automatic price freeze on medicines and medical supplies may be made by the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry,” he said.
Earlier, Senator Bong Go confirmed that Duterte had agreed to declare a public health emergency after COVID-19 cases in the country rose to six.
Duque explained that the declaration would “facilitate mobilization of resources and ease processes, including procurement of critical logistics and supplies and intensifying reporting and quarantine measures.”
The World Health Organization confirmed that there had been local transmission of COVID-19 in the country after a 62-year-old Filipino male with no recent travel history contracted the virus.
Despite the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, Panelo said no special precautionary measures would be implemented to protect Duterte from the virus.
“Lahat ng protocols na applicable sa ordinaryong tao, applicable din sa Presidente. Simple lang naman ang protocol sa atin, maglinis ng kamay for as long as you need to, huwag pupunta sa crowded area kung may sakit ka,” Panelo said.
Neither were Duterte’s public engagements likely to be limited, and there were no plans for Malacañang to be locked down.
Panelo also said that it was for school authorities to decide whether to suspend classes over the COVID-19 outbreak, though he saw no need to suspend government sector work.
“Hindi naman crowded ang mga gobyerno. I don’t think we have reached that level. We should not panic, tayo nga ang pinakamagandang containment,” he said.
Under the law, a Health Secretary can only classify an epidemic as a national or international concern.
The declaration of a State of a Public Health Emergency can only be made by the President.
Worldwide, here have been almost 105,000 COVID-19 cases recorded in 95 countries and territories with 3,556 deaths./Stacy Ang