Mask on or off?

People should still keep in mind the consequences of their actions, as the deadly Covid-19 itself should have already taught us.

September 13, 2022

The mask policy is a simple enough matter to decide on, so there is no need to bicker among ourselves.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may have signed Executive Order 3, which allows voluntary use of masks in open areas, but we still have full responsibility of our choices.

Personally, I find myself agreeing with some points on either side of the argument.

Among the reasons from the “aye” side, I go with what Joey Concepcion, Go Negosyo founder and Private Sector Advisory Council lead for jobs, said recently: “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,” he stated.

We do have to move on, move forward if you will, with still no end to the pandemic in sight.

Yet at this point — two-and-a-half years later — we are better armed with knowledge about the virus, its infection rate, our risks.

This is why we also need to keep ourselves safe — and others as well.

As Senator Bong Go’s comment goes: “Hinihikayat ko pa rin po ang ating mga kababayan na kung hindi naman po discomfort on your part na magsuot ng mask ay magsuot na rin po ng inyong mask.

Delikado pa po (I encourage everyone to still wear your masks if it offers no discomfort. The danger is still out there).”

The tourism sector is, of course, supportive of the newest edict. The Department of Tourism in fact hailed the decision “to liberalize the country’s mask mandate… especially as empirical data shows that in other economies in Asia, Europe, and North America where stringent health protocols were lifted, this resulted in more favorable economic conditions, increase in tourist arrivals, and a faster recovery of their respective tourism portfolios.”

Among the sectors worst-hit by the effects of the pandemic, tourism is raring to recover and move forward in the new times. With the peso rate against the dollar making it increasingly prohibitive for many to travel abroad, domestic travel should be encouraged even more.

Of course, this means all stakeholders should still ensure health and safety protocols are practiced as long as the risks remain.

This calls, indeed, for individual responsibility, and herein lies the main reason there are misgivings about EO 3.

Another issue affected by mask use is the environment. Perhaps with this new mandate, there will be less people heedlessly throwing away their disposable masks, uncaring of the piles of trash they are adding to.

The management of PPE waste is one other important aspect of the Covid policies government dreams up.

How mindful will people remain when they are outdoors and no one is there to penalize them? And this could be why “…to strike the necessary balance between protecting lives and promoting livelihood,” as the DoT added, is a constant reminder in these times.

People should still keep in mind the consequences of their actions, as the deadly Covid-19 itself should have already taught us. Wearing masks protects one from infection, yes, but it also keeps others safe when one may be infected and doesn’t know it.

Above all, this is the best time to get that booster shot, as we can never control what other people do, and can only be responsible for our actions.

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