DOH Press Release | 14 March 2024

Four years after the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) first recommended to former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to impose a nationwide ‘enhanced community quarantine’ to save lives and protect from COVID-19, the DOH continues to be vigilant for any new infectious disease threats along with the many other health conditions affecting Filipinos.

It has been one year now after President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. saw, upon recommendation of the IATF and consistent with pronouncements by the WHO, that COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency.

Data as of 04 March 2024 show that from February 27 to March 04 this year, only 251 new COVID-19 cases were reported, which results to an average of 36 cases reported per day. This is 27% lower compared to the average daily cases recorded last February 20 to 26.

The Philippines instituted early on a scientific ‘PDITR’ response framework that stood for prevent, detect, isolate, treat, and reintegrate. Prevention measures started with minimum public health standards. Detection was rapidly scaled up; molecular laboratories capable of PCR tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus became available nationwide. This has kept the number of new cases in check, and the technology is being repurposed to rapidly detect other pressing diseases like Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Out of the 1,185 dedicated COVID-19 ICU beds available today, only 115 (10%) were occupied, while only 1,119 (11%) of the 10,097 dedicated COVID-19 non-ICU beds were in use. There were 156 severe and critical cases admitted in various hospitals due to COVID-19.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Philippines already passed its Universal Health Care Act (RA 11223) which called for the integration of local health systems and the establishment of Health Care Provider Networks (HCPNs), to allow Filipinos to get the healthcare that they need without overloading hospitals. The pandemic tested this concept through the One Hospital Command, which later became the National Patient Navigation and Referral Center. Now, there are four provinces – Benguet, Laguna, Aklan, and Saragani, who will demonstrate the HCPN concept.

Out of the new COVID-19 cases recently reported, only 3 had severe or critical disease. Seven deaths were recorded, 5 of which occurred this February 2024 during the recent 2 weeks (February 20 to March 04). The DOH credits this low severity and fatality to the protection given by our high vaccination coverage. The Philippines made available not just one or two COVID-19 vaccine types, but several, allowing rapid access by vulnerable groups.

“Moving forward, we have learned our lessons and we now know better. The UHC Act is still our reference, and it is the order of President Marcos to strengthen primary health care to prepare us for the next pandemic,” said Health Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa.