DOH Officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire: “The position of the Department of Health is for us to continue on masking but …”
VERGEIRE — DOH Officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the Department of Health prefers to keep the mandatory wearing of face masks in the Philippines amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, she said in an interview on ANC’s “Headstart” that this was the health department’s position during the first meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Monday.
The IATF has since recommended to lift the outdoor mask mandate. However, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles stressed on Wednesday that the IATF’s recommendation is not yet a policy.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said that Myanmar and the Philippines are the only member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that continue to implement mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor areas.
Also, the DILG data showed that tourist arrivals have increased in countries with relaxed mask mandates while fresh COVID-19 infections have decreased.
However, Vergeire stressed that IATF’s recommendation would only be imposed in low-risk individuals and low-risk settings.
“So, meaning this will only be done outdoors, in settings where it is not crowded, in settings where there is good ventilation,” she said. “This will be done among low-risk individuals, meaning not the senior citizens, not those with comorbidities, not the children, and definitely not those having symptoms of COVID-19.“
She also noted the country’s coronavirus cases were “manageable”, adding that severe and critical cases are on a plateau while hospital admissions are less than 30%.
The health official hopes that by relaxing the face mask policy, this will urge more people to get additional vaccine dose in order to protect themselves from the coronavirus disease.