DOH: Masks still needed, but…

Options Masks sellers, such as the owner of this stall at Tabora Market in Divisoria, may no longer enjoy brisk business when people are officially allowed to go without them outdoors. | PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEY SANCHEZ MENDOZA FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE @tribunephl_joey

September 9, 2022

The Department of Health has not changed its position that the public should still wear masks even in outdoor spaces, Health Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said Thursday.

However, Vergeire said that “several data” were presented during the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which led to its recommendation to lift the outdoor mask mandate.

“The position of the DoH is for us to continue on masking, but there were several data that were presented also that led to this decision,” she said.

“We needed to balance health and the economy, and what we have compromised would be, this will be done among low-risk individuals and in low-risk settings,” she added.

On Wednesday, Malacañang announced that the IATF has recommended the optional wearing of masks outdoors nationwide to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The recommendation was approved by the President verbally, according to Vergeire.

While it is not yet considered a policy, the health official clarified that the optional wearing of masks will only be implemented at outdoor spaces.

“This means that optional masking will only be done outdoors, in settings where it is not crowded, in settings where there is good ventilation, and this will be done among low-risk individuals — meaning not the senior citizens, not those with comorbidities, not the children, and definitely not those having symptoms with Covid-19,” she said.

‘Not yet time’

Meanwhile, Dr. Rontgene Solante, an infectious disease expert, reiterated that the mandatory masking policy should be the last protocol to be lifted.

“Most of us agree that it’s not yet time to really put off masks outdoors, even in the downtrend of cases,” Solante said.

“We need to think of other aspects of how we can improve, and we should focus on boosting the population rather than tinkering with our health protocols which for me have been very important,” he added.

Solante underscored that the masking policy helped the country maintain its low infections.

Likewise, Dr. Maricar Limpin, immediate past president of the Philippine College of Physicians, warned that the new IATF protocol which relaxes the masking policy might lead to a public perception that getting vaccinated is no longer needed.

“It basically also gives the impression to a lot of Filipinos that there is really no need to vaccinate. You should not be afraid of the covid-19,” Limpin said in a roundtable discussion with the media on Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness as boosters.

“What will happen to the booster campaign? That will also weaken the campaign for the entire vaccination program,” she added.

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