February 9, 2023

The Department of Health said the country’s face mask mandate would remain even with the decreasing Covid-19 cases.
Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said the mandate is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon especially with the election campaign season, where strict compliance with the minimum public health standards (MPHS) must be ensured to prevent any spike in cases from happening.
While the Philippines is already past the recent Omicron surge, Duque said it is better to err on the side of caution.
“Hindi ako naniniwala na malapit na ‘yong panahon (na mawawala na ‘yong mask) kasi lalo na mayroon tayong campaign rallies lalo pa natin dapat paigtingin ang pagsunod sa MPHS,” he said.
“It’s better to err on the side of caution. I’m more conservative when it comes to this. Let’s continue to wear face mask because it also helps us protect ourselves from influenza, tuberculosis, measles, and other airborne diseases.”
Health Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said the removal of the mandatory masking will only be possible if the disease becomes endemic and the country’s cases become manageable.
“Our vision would be that the mask should be the last to go,” she said.
“A lot of things are uncertain now and one of the things that we are relying on as we shift to new normal, meaning easing of restrictions, would be that people would be imbibing that culture or practice where the mask would be part of our daily lives, vaccination is there, and also the safety protocols,” she added.
Vergeire said the government continues to prepare the country as it slowly transitions into the new normal.
Many countries, mostly in Europe, have already lifted Covid-19 restrictions due to dropping cases, which include the mandatory wearing of face masks.
For his part, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force against Covid-19 chief implementer, said the lifting of the mandate on wearing face masks is unlikely by the end of the year.
“Sa ngayon po wala pa kaming discussion sa pagtatanggal ng face mask. Kaya ang sinasabi ko po sa media ay talagang ang last na tatanggalin natin siguro ‘yung mask kasi iyon ‘yung pinaka-defense po natin,” Galvez said.
Galvez, also the country’s vaccine czar, said the face mask requirement will remain in the country until Covid-19 is “totally eliminated.”
“Ang rekomendasyon po namin talaga ay hanggang hindi pa natatapos ang pandemya at kung saka talagang (wala pang assurance na) eliminated na ang Covid-19 ay hindi po natin matatanggal yung ating face mask,” he said.
He said the government is still hoping for the end of the pandemic by the end of the year.
Galvez reminded the public to avoid crowded places, especially during election campaign rallies.
“Dapat maging self-aware tayo, dapat nandoon pa rin talaga yung pag-aalaga sa atin sarili,” he added.
Galvez also suggested that politicians should have their own health and safety marshals to make sure that public minimum health standards are followed during the entire campaign period. – PNA