MANILA – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has recommended the voluntary use of face masks outdoors, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.
In a Palace media briefing, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the optional wearing of face mask is only for low-risk individuals and in low risk settings.
“Ni-liberalize natin ‘yung paggamit ng masks sa outdoors pero doon sa low-risk individuals and in low risks settings meaning hindi sila matanda, hindi sila immunocompromised. And low risk setting, ibig sabihin doon sa mga area na hindi matao at saka maayos po ang daloy ng hangin (We liberalized the use of masks outdoors but for low-risk individuals and in low risk settings meaning they are not elderly. And low risk setting, meaning in uncrowded areas and with proper air ventilation),” she said.
The recommendation also includes the pilot study on the wearing of masks indoors in selected areas.
The task force noted that its implementation must be done in phases to ensure the population’s protection against the coronavirus.
“Tayo po ngayon ay kumakalap na ng ebidensiya, gumagawa na rin po tayo ng concept paper kung saan ‘yung study, kung saan paano natin gagawin yung study ng pagpa-pilot (We are now gathering pieces of evidence, we’re also creating a concept paper where and how the pilot study will be implemented)” Vergeire said.
She said the optional wearing of face masks outdoors is not yet a policy and the DOH, as the chair of the IATF, is “initially informing the public about the recommendation”.
“Because there was this verbal approval from the President when they talked with Secretary Benhur [Abalos Jr.] from DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government], but it stated in IATF Resolution Number 1 Series of 2022, that the IATF has resolved to recommend to the President and that there should be, or the President will issue an executive order regarding this policy,” she said.
Optimistic over the proposal
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, meanwhile, said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is “optimistic” over the IATF-EID proposal to make face mask use voluntary outdoors.
“Let’s just say he's optimistic for now. Mas mabuti kasi kung sa kanya manggagaling (It’s better if it will come from him)...but right now we think the reception is optimistic,” she said.
Citing the Department of Tourism (DOT), she said studies are showing a direct correlation between the lifting of the face mask policy and an increase in tourism numbers.
However, she said local authorities also need to do their part in raising vaccination and booster rates.
“May mga studies na nagpiprisinta ng direct correlation between the removal of mandatory mask mandate atsaka 'yung pagtaas ng turismo doon sa mga bayan. On the other hand, hindi rin tayo basta-basta maaring magbago ng ating health protocols na wala tayong backup plan (There are studies that show direct correlation between the removal of mandatory mask mandate and an increase in tourism numbers. On the other hand, we cannot just change health protocols without a backup plan) and the backup plan really here is to make sure that people are boostered,” she said.
Cruz-Angeles also reminded the public of the need to maintain a balance between the people’s health and the economy.
“Ang balancing natin dito is (We are balancing) the economy and public health. Let’s give the President some time to consider these two interests and we will articulate his policy as soon as an approval or disapproval or modification of the proposed policy comes out,” she added.
She earlier said the DOH and DOT need to reach a compromise on relaxing the face mask requirement. (PNA)