President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, March 9, will sign an executive order declaring a state of public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a local transmission of which was confirmed this weekend, Malacañang said Sunday.
Duterte’s move comes “after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino public,” said his spokesman Salvador Panelo.
The President’s executive order will be released during Panelo’s regular press briefing in Malacañang.
The Philippines so far confirmed 6 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 on Saturday raised the country’s alert system to Code Red, Sub-level 1. This is a “preemptive call” for authorities and health workers to “prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
Duque urged Malacañang to declare a state of public health emergency last Feb. 21, when the Philippines only had 3 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 wrote.
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 lies solely on the President.
Across the world, there have been almost 105,000 COVID-19 cases recorded in 95 countries and territories with 3,556 deaths.
“There is no need for alarm and worry because from the very start, we are ready,” Panelo said Friday.