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Outdoor wearing of face masks is now optional in the Philippines

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Top medical experts in the Philippines oppose easing face mask requirement, saying it sends the wrong message to the public that they ‘shouldn’t be afraid of COVID-19 anymore’

MANILA, Philippines — Wearing face masks outdoors is now optional in the Philippines.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Monday, Sept. 12, that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had already signed Executive Order (EO) No. 3 authorizing the voluntary wearing of face masks outdoors.

The EO was the final step to formalize the new policy after Marcos “verbally” endorsed the recommendation last week.

“Voluntary wearing of face masks in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation is permitted provided that people who are not fully vaccinated, the elderly and immunocompromised people are strongly encouraged to wear their masks and physical distancing will be observed at all times,” Angeles said.

The press secretary said the public should continue to wear face masks in “indoor, private or public establishments, including on public land, air or sea transportation and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained”.

The Philippines’ top medical experts have opposed easing the face mask requirement, saying it would send the wrong message to the public that they “shouldn’t be afraid of COVID-19 anymore.”

“If you relax the requirement for face mask use, it basically makes a lot of Filipinos feel like there is no need…. you don’t even need to vaccinate,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, former president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), during a panel discussion on COVID-19 vaccination at the New World Hotel in Makati on Thursday, September 8. .

Health and economy balance

Health official Maria Rosario Vergeire said the position of the Department of Health (DOH) was to maintain the masking policy. However, she said the DOH has received different evidence about balancing public health and the economy.

“We had to strike a balance between health and economics, and what we traded off would be, it will be among low-risk people and in low-risk settings,” the DOH said in a statement last week. .

Infectious disease specialist Dr Rontgene Solante said implementing the new masking rules would be difficult.

“We know from history that it is difficult in terms of implementation but it is important for us, medical societies, even media, to reiterate again the importance and to inform the population at risk that the risk will be always there even if outside [setting], and if they won’t be wearing a face mask. Constant communication and specific messaging will therefore be really important as we implement this policy,” he said.

Solante, who is also part of the country’s vaccine expert panel, reiterated his earlier stance that “the face mask should be the last to go” in terms of pandemic health protocols.


Outdoor wearing of face masks is now optional in the Philippines

The infectious disease expert said it was not fair to “compare” policies in the Philippines with other countries, as each has a different background and situation. He was reacting to the presentation at the pandemic task force meeting which showed that it is the Philippines and Myanmar in the ASEAN states that have a masking mandate.

Healthcare in the Philippines and Myanmar

A number of countries, including those in Europe and the United States, have already dropped the mandatory wearing of face masks in most public places, although it is still recommended in some indoor places. But the caveat is that a large part of the population of most of these countries has been vaccinated and strengthened against COVID-19.

In the Philippines, although more than 72 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, only 18.2 million have received boosters. – Rappler.com