Mask off now allowed outdoors

Angeles reminded the public that the minimum public health standards would continue to be strictly enforced to ‘effectively prevent and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in the country’

September 13, 2022

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has allowed the voluntary use of masks in outdoor settings through Executive Order 3, Malacañang announced on Monday.

“We issued today EO No. 3 allowing the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings and reiterating the continued implementation of minimum public health standards during the state of public health emergency relating to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles announced in a Palace press briefing.

The EO takes effect “immediately upon its publication in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation.”

The President, she said, has allowed the “voluntary wearing of masks in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.”

Meanwhile, non-fully vaccinated individuals, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals “are highly encouraged to wear their masks and physical distancing will be observed at all times.”

The Press Secretary noted that masks shall continue to be worn in “indoor, private or public establishments, including in public transportation by land, air or sea and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

Angeles reminded the public that the minimum public health standards would continue to be strictly enforced to “effectively prevent and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in the country.”

“It shall continue to be implemented consistent with the principles of shared accountability, evidence-based decision-making, socioeconomic equity and rights-based approach,” she said.

“In this regard, the Department of Health is directed to update the MPHS Guidelines with the issuance of this order,” she added.

Angeles disclosed that one of the factors that made the President decide to lift the mandatory mask-wear outdoors is because the country is “six percent away from the wall of immunity.”

“In addition to that, we’re happy to announce that we are six percent away from the wall of immunity. That’s why malakas na ang loob natin for masks,” she said.

“Establishing a wall of immunity” was one of the conditions imposed by the President to allow the optional wearing of masks in outdoor areas.

“He had imposed a condition and one of that is the establishment of the wall of immunity since we’re six percent away from that, then it’s time. We’re doing this in stages, in phases, so that we can have feedback on whether or not these new policies are working and how to make them more efficient, so that hopefully by the end of the year, we might be able to be voluntarily masked indoors as well,” Angeles explained.

She said it will be the discretion of local government units to determine minimum standards for the imposition of the latest EO.

“However, in general, what does good ventilation mean? May opportunities for instance na crowded, so even if it is outdoors hindi good ventilation ‘yun and you’re in each other’s faces. So without the possibility of social distancing then this would be considered also as part of the requirement kasi ‘yung requirement it shouldn’t be too crowded,” Angeles said.

“In some instances, you consider outdoors, okay lang roof pero walang roof. In other instances, someplace, for example, under the no smoking law, in some instances kapag sinabi mong outdoors, kailangan walang bubong. So it will be determined. Normally, things like these are determined by the local government kasi sila po ang enforcement in these instances,” she added.

She emphasized that it has always been the LGUs that “set the standards.”

“That’s the reason we’re doing it in phases so that we have a feedback mechanism. We continue to listen to the people and what their needs are and to understand that local needs also differ. So, we have to balance the creation of a uniform standard with the needs of the locals,” she explained.

State of calamity

Malacañang is eyeing extending the state of calamity for “possibly three months.”

It will be extended, Angeles said, “for the purpose of preserving the benefits under it such as but not limited to the… indemnification, emergency procurement, special risk allowance for healthcare workers.”

In the EO, it was stated that as of 6 September 2022, 72 million individuals, or 93 percent of the country’s target population, are fully vaccinated while 18 million individuals, or 23 percent of the target population, have booster doses.

New phase in pandemic

Meanwhile, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said the country is now entering a new phase in the pandemic following the relaxation of the mask rule.

“We are moving to a new phase, one where Filipinos can manage their own risks, and where our approach now shifts to making sure we have mitigation strategies in place,” Concepcion said.

He said these mitigation strategies against Covid-19 include stocking up on antiviral pills which he believes is a more practical move.

“We should ensure that we have enough supply of antiviral pills, especially Paxlovid, which we are currently out of stock in the country. This will become crucial as people start moving around without masks outdoors,” added.

Concepcion, the lead of the Jobs group of the Private Sector Advisory Council, emphasized that Filipinos must continue to ensure that they remove their masks only in outdoor settings and where there is good ventilation but continue to wear them in public transportation and health care facilities, and when around vulnerable members of the population, such as the elderly and very young children.

New mask policy premature: Guarin

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin has opposed the government’s new policy on masks, saying it is premature.

Garin, who served as former Health Secretary, warned that it could result in a spike in Covid cases anew.

“If we make wearing of mask optional this would send a mixed signal, the public would feel that there’s no pandemic anymore and will be more confident not to get booster shots,” Garin said.

She said she does not see any benefit from the optional mask policy at this time when face-to-face classes have resumed and people are slowly returning to normal.

She added that it would only heighten the risks of contracting the virus.

@tribunephl_raf @tribunephl_eao

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