The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has filed a recommendation to ease the mandate on wearing face masks outdoors and in non-crowded areas.
According to IATF Resolution No. 1, Series 2022, signed Sept. 5, wearing face masks outdoors and in non-crowded areas with good ventilation would be made optional nationwide. However, masking up in transport areas and public transportation will still be required.
Senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals are still encouraged to wear face masks. The IATF will also provide further guidelines on defining which areas would be considered outdoors and non-crowded.
“Ang atin pong pagsusuot ng mask ay highly encouraged pa rin, lalo na sa mga senior citizens and immunocompromised dahil sila po ang tinatamaan ng malubhang sakit ng COVID-19," Department of Health (DOH) Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
She added that there was already verbal approval from Marcos Jr. about this, but stressed that it's still not a policy.
In Cebu, Governor Gwen Garcia issued Executive Order 16 in June, making wearing face masks in open spaces in the province no longer mandatory, in spite of protocols set by the IATF. Cebu City has also made masking up outdoors a choice from Sept. 1 until Dec. 31.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos addressed Cebu's lifting of the mandate, asking for local governments to cooperate.
"Kailangan natin ng iisang polisiya. We are archipelagic, hindi pwedeng magkanya-kanya tayo at magkakagulo tayo rito," he said.
Optional face masks indoors?
The IATF is also studying making wearing face masks indoors optional, according to Vergeire.
"Eto pong indoor masking, pag-aaralan pa po patuloy ng IATF kasama ng mga experto. Gagawa po tayo ng pilot study on this so we can determine kung kakayanin na po ng ating health sector ang pag-lilift ng indoor masking by the end of the year," she said.
With plans to make wearing face masks optional, the DOH further encourages the public to get vaccinated and boosted.