“Wear your face masks. The COVID virus is still out there waiting for next victim. Please do it for your family , workplace colleagues and for the country. It’s not over,” warned former Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases adviser Tony Leachon.
This comment from the former IATF came when Marcos Jr. administration issued Executive Order No. 3 which lifted the mandatory facemask rule outdoors.
According to the amended rule, the optional wearing of face masks shall only be allowed in open spaces or non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation. Senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals on the other hand are highly encouraged to wear masks.
Leachon added that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has even encouraged its field personnel working outdoors to continue wearing their face masks despite the national government’s new policy.
Another infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante furthered that “face mask should be the last to go” saying that the optional wearing of facemasks in public is not advisable, especially amid ongoing threat of Omicron subvariant circulation.
“We know by history, it’s difficult in terms of implementation but it’s important for us, medical societies, even media, to again reiterate the importance and inform the population at risk that the risk will still be there even if in an outdoor [setting], and if they will not be wearing face masks. So constant communication and specific messaging will really be important when we implement this policy,” Solante said.
As a matter of fact, even the Department of Health affirmed “mas ligtas ang nakamask” (it is safer when wearing a mask). DOH officer-in-charge Ma. Rosario Vergiere furthered that it is not yet the right time to uphold the new rule on facemasks.
“Maybe we will reach the point where we can already recommend this trial, pilot study for specific areas where we can see if we can already remove mask indoors, optional, for these areas that we will be identifying,” Vergiere added.
On the other hand, Kabataan Partylist slammed Marcos Jr. administration for being overly confident.
“In combatting the spread of Covid-19 which is an airborne disease, wearing of face masks remains to be a top protective measure. The Marcos Jr. admin is overly confident in such a decision when it cannot even assure the people of faster vaccination rates, free mass testing, systematic tracing and isolation of cases, affordable treatment, and accessible health care services,” says Kabataan Partylist Hon. Raoul Manuel.
According to the youth group, the Marcos Jr. administration has only continued the “vaccine-centric pandemic response” of his predecessor Duterte while neglecting other health measures.
It said in the executive order that 72 million individuals or 93% of the country’s population were fuly-vaccinated. This is still 7% away from completion.
“Policies like making masks optional in outdoor spaces arise when health experts and professionals take the back seat in national decision-making. Public officials should be the first to educate their constituents about Covid-19, rather than let the people be harmed by dangerously misguided policies,” Manuel continued, reiterating the importance of educating the Filipino people in regards to wearing masks indoors or outdoors to minimize health infections.
In the end, Leachon further chided that the government itself does not know what it wants.