President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has issued an executive order making wearing face masks in both indoor and outdoor settings optional.
Executive Order (EO) No. 7 was released on Oct. 28 and will take effect immediately upon publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.
EO No. 3 was issued in Sept., making wearing face masks voluntary when outdoors. This latest order further laxes the face mask mandate, making it optional when indoors except in specified areas.
Where and who can go maskless?
It's now voluntary throughout the Philippines to go maskless except when you're in healthcare facilities, medical transport, and public transportation (land, air, and sea).
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) still highly recommends senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, and unvaccinated individuals to continue wearing face masks when indoors.
Minimum public health standards such as frequent hand-washing, observance of physical distancing, and maintenance of good ventilation will continue to be implemented, the EO read.
On the eased face mask mandate, Dr. Edsel Salvaña said, "Going from a mask mandate to a voluntary one is also freedom to manage your risk of COVID-19. It also means having to deal with the consequences of COVID-19 infection that could have been prevented by wearing a mask."
"Remember that the cost of hospitalization from sever COVID-19 can run into millions of pesos. Even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted and only get mild disease, you can still transmit to vulnerable populations," he added.
Salvaña continued to encourage those who recently had COVID and completed isolation to still wear a mask to protect others from contracting the virus.
On Oct. 23, the Department of Health reported 11,995 new COVID-19 cases from Oct. 17 to 23, with an average of 1,714 cases per day. Meanwhile, 73,482,574 individuals were vaccinated and 20,472,983 received their boosters within the time period.