Hospital group wants mask mandate back

THE head of the country's group of private hospitals urged the Department of Health (DoH) to bring back the masking mandate in outdoor spaces, as he believes that the optional wearing of face masks is contributing to the increasing cases of Covid-19 in the country.

The government earlier lifted the mandatory masking mandate in open spaces and in low-risk settings as the country slowly moves away and heads toward Covid-19 possibly becoming endemic.

In a televised briefing on Tuesday, Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines President Dr. Jose Rene de Grano urged the government to bring back the mask mandate in outdoor spaces after the country reported a 22 percent increase in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

“We hope that the government would resume the mask mandate even in outdoor areas as we are seeing an increase in mild cases so that we won't see increased hospitalization,” de Grano said.

People, wearing face masks, walk along Blumentritt Market in Manila, on 15 June 2022. The national government’s order on the mandatory wearing of face masks against COVID-19. FILE PHOTO BY MIKE ALQUINTO)

People, wearing face masks, walk along Blumentritt Market in Manila, on 15 June 2022. The national government’s order on the mandatory wearing of face masks against COVID-19. FILE PHOTO BY MIKE ALQUINTO)

In response, Health Officer in Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said there is no need for groups to request the government to reimplement the mask mandate once cases increased as the DoH will be the one to reintroduce it if it sees fit.

Vergeire added that aside from the lifting of the mask mandate, increased mobility of individuals, waning vaccine immunity and return of face-to-face classes have contributed to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the past few days.

“It is not specific to the optional masking outdoors, it could also be attributed to the increased mobility of the population, to the opening of classes, or even the vaccination of boosters, we are seeing many factors,” she said.

Vergeire recognized that there could also be circulating Omicron subvariants in the country, which are highly transmissible but less lethal than the Delta variant.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said in a message to The Manila Times that another reason that the country's positivity rate remains high is the presence of other Omicron subvariants that are more transmissible than the BA.5 and the BA.4 subvariants.

He added that the “selection pressure” from the continuous transmission of Omicron in the population as a result of low vaccine coverage is the main reason why the subvariants continue to emerge within the Omicron lineages.

“And I think that's one reason an Omicron-specific booster vaccine makes sense to lower that selection pressure and prevent more subvariants within the Omicron lineages,” Solante said.

Currently, 41 percent of the total number of samples sequenced in the country contained the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron, while 32.3 percent were of the BA.2.3 subvariant.

Vergeire said they are now in talks with manufacturers regarding the possible procurement of reformulated vaccines that contain the Omicron subvariant.

She added that the DoH has initiated talks with Moderna, which is requesting term sheets for vaccine procurement, and Pfizer, noting that the government recognizes the need to procure these bivalent vaccines.

Vergeire said there had been no vaccine wastage reported during the onslaught of Super Typhoon “Karding” (international name: “Noru”) in the Philippines and only a few health facilities sustained minor damage.

She added that areas that have suspended the “PinasLakas: Bakunahang Bayan” vaccination drive may now begin their booster vaccination campaign and are urged to extend the drive until October 1, Saturday.

Currently, around 66,756 had been given booster shots on the first day of the campaign in the Visayas and Mindanao.

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Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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