(File photo)

MANILA – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Friday said authorities will continue enforcing mask mandates across the country, stressing that the coronavirus pandemic is not yet over.

This came after Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, in Executive Order 8 dated June 8, limited the use of face masks in the province to indoor spaces only.

“This Department does not recognize the Executive Order issued by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia because we have the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) guidelines approved by the President. The Philippine National Police will continue to confront, apprehend, and arrest, if necessary, all violators of IATF guidelines and MPHS (minimum public health standards) in the Province of Cebu,” Año said in a statement.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the continued wearing of face masks except under circumstances defined by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Current IATF protocols allow only for specific instances when masks can be taken off, such as when eating or during certain well-ventilated sports and activities.

“Our adherence to minimum public health standards (MPHS) is the key to defeating this pandemic. The wearing of face masks, together with vaccination and boosters have helped keep our Covid-19 case counts low despite the detection of new subvariants. Scientific evidence worldwide proves that the use of face masks reduces the transmission not only of Covid-19 but also of other infectious and respiratory diseases including Monkeypox, should it reach our country,” Año said.

He said the country's improved Covid-19 situation is not a reason to relax health and safety protocols.

“Individuals can still catch the virus, most especially our senior citizens and vulnerable population. We should therefore be vigilant, continue our adherence to all MPHS, and get vaccinated or boosted immediately,” he said. (PNA)