(PNA file photo by Ben Briones)

BACOLOD CITY – Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson has allowed the optional wearing of face masks in outdoor spaces across the province as a continuing prevention and control measure to limit the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

“The wearing of face masks in outdoor and open spaces shall be optional for all persons within the territory of Negros Occidental,” stated Executive Order (EO) 22-45, signed by Lacson on September 9 and released Sunday.

The EO said the wearing of face masks in indoor spaces as well as in hospitals and other medical facilities remains mandatory.

Non-compliance with the provisions of EO 22-45 and the established government health and safety protocols will result in appropriate administrative/and or criminal sanctions under existing laws and regulations.

As of September 10, Negros Occidental still has 168 active Covid-19 cases.

The recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on the voluntary use of face masks outdoors is still under scrutiny by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, Department of Health (DOH) Officer-in-Charge, said the proposal only covers low-risk individuals and will apply to low-risk settings.

The voluntary use will be done in phases to ensure the population's protection against Covid-19.

Vergeire insists on the wearing of face mask as it provides 70 to 80 percent protection against Covid-19 while Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the DOH would still have the “major say” on the fate of the face mask policy. (PNA)