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Duque: Extend mandatory mask mandate



Outgoing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said he would recommend the extension of the mandatory wearing of masks in the country due to the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases.

“If you ask me, I will recommend that it should be extended because there’s already an increasing number of cases,” Duque said in a televised interview.

“Anything that will be the opposite of that is rather strange. If cases are increasing, why would you loosen restrictions?” he added.

Duque stressed that wearing mask also helps prevent the spread of other illnesses such as influenza, bacterial pneumonia, and asthma.

“We should continue wearing mask because it has a lot of added value not only against Covid-19 but also against influenza, bacterial pneumonia, and other illnesses,” he said.

He added that masking helps prevent the spread of monkeypox, which is now causing a global concern due to its emergence in countries where the virus is not endemic.

At the moment, there are still no cases of monkeypox in the country, according to Duque.


Delayed OCA distribution

Meanwhile, Duque attributed the delay in the disbursement of the One Covid-19 Allowance (OCA) of some 120,000 healthcare workers to the non-submission of necessary requirements of the hospitals where they are employed.

“I have been monitoring the release [of the OCA] because they really deserved it. These benefits — the One Covid-19 Allowance — are long overdue,” said the Health chief.

“But in government, you have to deal with the rules and regulations of the COA (Commission on Audit). You cannot just disburse funds without those facilities that have received the first round of benefits without liquidation,” he added.

Duque explained that they have already reminded the hospitals whose health workers have not yet received their OCA to submit their liquidation reports.

“We told them, please submit the liquidation report and the liquidation report and also the memorandum of agreement because these are all embedded in the guidelines for the grant of such benefits and also under the law,” Duque said.

“I told them even partial liquidation will do. There has to be liquidation. Otherwise, the DoH will be liable and it will be a subject of a CoA observation and a possible disallowance,” he added.

Duque issued the remarks after Private Hospitals Association Philippines (PHAPI) president Dr. Jose de Grano lamented that most of their employees have not yet received their OCA.

Duque assured health workers who have not yet received their  OCA that their intended benefits will be given once their hospitals submitted the necessary documents.

The Department of Budget and Management has allocated more than P7 billion budget for the Covid-19 allowance of both public and private healthcare workers and non-healthcare workers.