(UPDATE) MALACAÑANG on Monday issued an executive order allowing the wearing of masks in outdoor and low-risk settings voluntary.
Executive Order (EO) 3, signed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on the same day, makes mask wearing “optional in open spaces or non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.”
Wearing masks has been mandatory since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals, however, were “highly encouraged” to wear masks.
“Masks remain mandatory indoors, when riding public transportation and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained,” Press Secretary Rose Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles said in a briefing Monday.
“Other minimum public health standards intended to effectively prevent and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in the country shall continue to be implemented consistent with the principles of shared accountability, evidence-based decision making, socioeconomic equity and rights-based approach,” she said.
The Department of Health will update minimum public health standards guidelines following the issuance of the EO, Cruz-Angeles added.
All departments, agencies and instrumentalities of the government have been directed to cooperate with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in implementing the order.
The implementation of optional mask wearing will be done in phases, and with guidance from local government units, to serve as a gauge of the country's readiness of further easing anti-Covid regulations.
“We're doing this in stages, in phases so that we can have feedback on whether or not these new policies are working and how to make them more efficient so that hopefully by the end of the year we might be able to be voluntarily masked indoors as well,” Cruz-Angeles said.
“Let's see how it works. That's the reason we're doing it in phases, so that we have a feedback mechanism. We continue to listen to the people what the needs are and particularly also to understand that local needs also differ. So, we have to balance the creation of a uniform standard with the needs of the locals,” she said.
The IATF last week recommended to the President the optional wearing of masks following the steady decline of Covid-19 cases and the government's ramped-up efforts to administer vaccine booster shots.
Cruz-Angeles said Marcos “imposed a condition” that the country must first establish a “wall of immunity” before he gives the green light.
The state of calamity declared by the previous administration at the onset of the pandemic has been extended “for possibly three months” but only to ensure that Covid response initiatives such as “indemnification, emergency procurement, special risk allowance for health care workers” are sustained, she said.
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