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No need for mandatory face masks outdoors even if COVID-19 cases increase: DOH

By NICK GARCIA Published May 04, 2023 4:10 pm

There's no need to bring back mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors even if COVID-19 cases increase, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

Instead, Filipinos must increase their risk tolerance through COVID-19 vaccines—and learning to live with the virus, according to DOH Officer in Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.

"Nakapagpasa na po ng rekomendasyon sa ating pangulo tungkol sa di na kinakailangang pagbalik ng mga restriction tulad ng mandatory masking," Vergeire said in a media forum on May 2, citing Executive Order No. 3 that took effect in September 2022.

The EO states that face masks must still be worn indoors, including in public transportation. Senior citizens, those who are immunocompromised, and those who aren't fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are also highly encouraged to wear masks.

Masks may be required in high-risk areas like hospitals and other medical facilities, according to Vergeire.

The health official said they cannot afford to impose "back and forth" policies.

"Ang kailangan lang talaga, ma-shift na natin ang mindset ng ating mga kabababayan. Tataas at bababa ang mga kaso dito sa ating bansa dahil andito pa rin naman ang virus," she added, explaining that a virus naturally mutates throughout its life cycle, producing variants every now and then.

She also pointed out that the new COVID-19 cases don't translate to higher hospital admissions, critical cases, even deaths.

Vergeire encouraged everybody to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as take first and second booster shots once ready.

As of March 20, 78.4 million Filipinos have been vaccinated against COVID-19 according to Vergeire. Some 23.8 million Filipinos have received their first booster doses, while 4.4 million had their second.

As of May 3, the DOH COVID-19 tracker states there are over 7,500 recorded active cases, about 3,000 of which are from Metro Manila.

But according to Guido David of OCTA Research, which independently monitors the country's COVID-19 situation, the capital's positivity rate—or the percentage of individuals who were tested for the disease and came out positive—are at 19.7% as of May 2, from 12.7% on April 25.